No doubt, we are going to miss the elder half of the M&M boys for sentimental reasons, but we can't dwell on it forever.
So let's start thinking about the future. In this article I'll be laying out a list of possible options, and then at the end I'll put in my two cents.
Mauer to first, internally solve catcher hole.
My guess is the Twins' front office will be cautious with Mauer as he ages, especially given his recent concussion. So why not plunk him at first? Unfortunately, catching prospects are by no means abundant for the Twins.
Probably our best prospect is Stuart Turner. Turner is a good defender and has a good arm, but is an offensive liability, as he was only able to muster a .264/.340/.380 slash line in Elizabethon this year. Sure, he can take some walks, but often high disciplined players in the low minors don't succeed in higher levels unless they are able to offer a decent slugging percentage.
Ryan Doumit and Chris Herrmann haven't shown any recent offensive prowess at any levels, and their defense is nothing to brag about. Josmil Pinto has shown offensive promise, with a .309/.400/.482 slashline in 2013 between AA and AAA.
But in all likelihood, none of these 4 men will be the catchers of the Twins' future.
Mauer to first, externally solve catcher hole.
If the Twins do turn to the free agent or trade market, they might not make a move for a solid catcher for year or two, so that Buxton and Sano can be at least somewhat big-league ready. However, there is still the PTBNL wild card for the Morneau trade. However, after examining the Pirates' affiliates for catchers, the one decent offensive (sufficient fielding data isn't readily available for minor leaguers) catcher between AAA and A+ (who wasn't too old to be considered a prospect), Tony Sanchez, is their #11 prospect.
That is probably too high of an asking price fir the Pirates. The Pirates are abundant, however, in low minors catching prospects. These include Reese McGuire (#8 prospect, Short A), Wyatt Mathisen (#13 prospect, ROK), and Jin-De Jhang (#18 prospect, A Short). Again, these are relatively high prospects for Pittsburgh, and perhaps the Twins will be looking for someone who is closer to the major leagues.
For the free agent catcher market, there are only 3 options that are good players with a few years ahead of them: Brian McCann (2.7 WAR, 30 years old this year, 2014 FA), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2.0 WAR-his future offensive performance should be questioned due to his high strikeout rate, 29 years old, 2014 FA), and Russell Martin (4.4 WAR, 31 years old, 2015 FA). However McCann is too expensive given our desperate need for starting pitching, Salty strikes out like no tomorrow, and Martin will be 32 by the 2015 season, so a short term contract is more likely.
Mauer stays at C, internally solve 1B hole.
Although there are 4 options for the Twins at first base (Chris Parmelee, Chris Colabello, Chris Herrmann, and Ryan Doumit), none of them have really produced much at all. In the minors, our three top hitting first basemen are Kennys Vargas (Class A+, .263/.341/.459, 23 years old), Dalton Hicks (Class A and A+, .289/.357/.470, 23 years old), and Reynaldo Rodriguez (Class AA, .235/.308/.490, 26 years old). They are all relatively unheard of, not to mention Reynaldo Rodriguez is getting old to be in AA, and Vargas and Hicks don't have much time to take it easy in the minors.
Now, Colabello or Parmelee could return to their previous forms, but if not, the Twins don't have high quality internal options at first.
Mauer stays at C, externally solve 1B hole.
If Mauer is to stay at catcher, I believe the Twins would have better options getting a medium term first baseman on the free agent market. These options include Adam Lind (30 in 2014, 2014 FA), Mike Napoli (32, 2014), James Loney (30, 2014), Kendrys Morales (30, 2014) or maybe even Billy Butler (28, 2015). However, if these players were to sign medium (3-4 year) contracts, then they would be into their mid 30s by the time Buxton, Sano, and Rosario were full time starters.
Yes, it's unorthodox, outlandish, and highly unlikely, but weirder things have happened before. Although Morneau may be considered a rental player, he is the Pirates' best first baseman as of now, so they may very well want to keep him. So again, this is very unlikely. This option is really more of a joke than anything.
What I think the Twins should do: If I was the Twins General Manager, I would go with Option 2. I think that we should move Mauer over to first base. I don't just think this because the he got a concussion, but for the longest time I've thought we should move him, especially considering his height could harm his knees even more than other catchers. He's had a little experience with it, and he can have the 2013-14 offseason to work on it. Why not? He might not be entirely comfortable, but first base is often where people who can't field anywhere else are placed. Mauer fielding behind the dish is also not as good as some people think, as his UZR has been positive only 3 years out of his 10 year career (that includes this year, which I will say his UZR is a solid 3, and defensive metrics are very imperfect). Plus, we'll probably be able to milk a few more years out of him this way. I will say, I had a hard time deciding which catcher I would pursue. After lots of thought that would take up enough of the article to bore everyone out of reading it, I decided that we should either sign a cheap short term catcher so we can use available funds on starting pitching, or we should wait a year or more to acquire an external catcher. This is also the approach that I think the Twins will take, at least in terms of the catcher- first basemen situation. Starting pitching is a completely different conversation...
Anyway, it'll be interesting to see who will occupy first base at Target Field, I hope this generates some discussion amongst all us TwinkieTowners.