FanPost

Mauer money, Mauer problems

Year 1 of Joe Mauer’s big contract went badly. Mauer was paid to be one of the best players in the game, and last season he was something like the 163rd best player (by Fangraphs WAR, Mauer contributed about as much as did A.J. Pierzynski and Nick Punto—ouch-er-ooski). Worse than that, he missed half the season with precisely the sort of injuries that terrify fans of 6’5’’, 220-pound catchers.

But the upside is just as clear. Despite the 2011 debacle, since Mauer’s 2006 breakout the players who have produced more wins above replacement (averaging Fangraphs’ WAR and Rally WAR) are Albert Pujols, Chase Utley, and exactly nobody else. Mauer’s still only 28, and last year was the first year in history he wasn’t more or less awesome at baseball. If Twins games are going to be fun to watch in the next 7 years, about 50% of that fun is going to be hailing our immortal Chairman.

And he’s not the only massive contract out there with a massive question mark behind it. I did a comparison of Mauer’s peers, below. This lists every position player whose team still owes them more than $54 million (what remains owed to the corpse of Alfonso Soriano), along with some other Mauer contemporaries worth looking at. After the jump I list: age; 6-year average WAR, calculated by averaging fWAR and rWAR; 3-year average WAR; years remaining; money owed; and average money owed per year.

Player

Age

6-avg

3-avg

Years

$ owed

$/year

Albert Pujols

32

7.9

7.1

10

254

25.4

Prince Fielder

27

3.6

4.9

9

214

23.8

Joe Mauer

28

5.5

5.1

7

161

23.0

Matt Kemp

27

3.4

5.4

7

160

22.9

Ryan Braun*

28

4.7

5.9

10

157

15.7

Adrian Gonzalez

29

4.8

6.3

7

154

22.0

Troy Tulowitzki

27

4.0

6.0

9

152

16.9

Alex Rodriguez

36

5.1

3.6

6

143

23.8

Carl Crawford

30

3.6

4.0

6

128

21.3

Ryan Howard

32

3.4

2.8

5

125

25.0

Jayson Werth*

32

3.9

3.9

6

116

19.3

Mark Teixeira

31

4.6

4.1

5

113

22.5

Jose Reyes

28

4.5

3.1

6

106

17.7

Matt Holliday

32

5.4

5.2

6

102

17.0

Carlos Gonzalez*

26

3.1

3.7

6

79

13.2

Adrian Beltre

32

4.2

4.6

4

66

16.5

Miguel Cabrera

28

5.5

6.2

3

64

21.3

Vernon Wells

33

2.3

1.4

3

63

21.0

Jose Bautista

31

2.7

5.5

4

56

14.0

Alfonso Soriano

36

2.9

1.1

3

54

18.0

Hanley Ramirez

28

5.0

4.0

3

47

15.5

Derek Jeter

37

4.0

3.4

3

41

13.7

Evan Longoria*

26

6.4

6.9

5

41

8.1

Chase Utley

33

6.3

5.5

2

30

15.0

Justin Morneau

30

3.0

2.6

2

28

14.0

Dustin Pedroia

28

4.3

5.2

3

28

9.3

Ryan Zimmerman

27

4.1

5.0

2

26

13.0

Curtis Granderson

30

4.6

4.1

2

23

11.5

David Wright

29

4.7

2.9

1

15

15.0

(* = did not play in 6 season 2006-2011)

A few stick out like sore thumbs here. Howard is an oldish good player with the contract of a youngish elite player. Wells and Soriano are going to be paid like MVPs for 3 more years while their coaches agonize about whether they still even merit a starting job. Arod is a titan and still a performer, but so, so, so very old and with so, so, so many years remaining. I’m absolutely certain we will be saying the same thing about Pujols when he’s the same age (not that we’ll even know for sure when that is).

In the next group—the simply overpaid—I’d put Fielder, an insane hitter and young, but sized like a small moon and also, just not really that good as a total package over his career. Crawford and Werth are both good, toolsy outfielders, but surely overpaid.

On the other side, I think the best of the really massive contracts is probably that of Tulowitzki, who is young, insanely good, and locked up forever at an average annual value of less than $17 million per year. Longoria is the steal of the century, and you’d certainly leap at the chance to have Pedroia locked up for 3 years averaging less than $10 million per.

The rest, as far as megadeals go, are neither especially good nor bad at this point, and that’s about where I’d put the Mauer deal. 2011 was miserable, but the overall track record is still impeccable, and I fully expect him to be contending for batting titles for most of the next 7 years.

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