Monday, November 23, 2009

Mauer Wins AL MVP

Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer won the 2009 AL MVP in a near unanimous vote. Mauer received 27 of 28 first place votes finishing well ahead of Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees, Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers and Kendry Morales of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Cabrera received the only other first place vote.

Mauer won his third batting title in four seasons hitting .365. He is the only catcher in MLB history to win three batting titles. Mauer is also the first catcher to win the AL MVP since Ivan Rodriguez did it with the Texas Rangers in 1999. In addition to winning his third batting title, he also led the league on on base percentage (.444) and slugging percentage (.587) becoming the first player to lead in all three categories since Hall of Famer George Brett pulled it off during his AL MVP season of 1980. Mauer had career highs in home runs (28) and in RBI (96.) His numbers would have been even better had he not missed the first month of the season with back problems.

What I think clinched the MVP for Mauer was how the Twins played in the last three weeks of the regular season. His teammate Justin Morneau (who won the AL MVP in 2006) went on the DL on September 12th with a stress fracture in his back. The Twins were 70-72 and without Morneau many thought the Twins season was finished. Instead, the Twins won 17 of their final 21 regular season games including a one game playoff against the Detroit Tigers to clinch the AL Central Division. Mauer hit .378 over this period.

Mauer has one year left on his contract with the Twins. He will be a highly sought after free agent after the 2010 season. Look for the New York Yankees to pursue him vigorously. Jorge Posada turns 40 during the 2011 season. Conversely, Mauer is a nearly a dozen years younger and not even in his prime. To utilize an overused phrase, "You do the math."

On the other hand, Mauer was born and raised in St. Paul. The Twins move into Target Field next April and it would be difficult to justify a new stadium without a franchise player like Mauer on their roster. The Twins don't have a big budget but they will move heaven and earth to re-sign Mauer. I see the Twins offering Mauer a 10-year contract in the neighborhood of $200 million and will offer him a minority ownership in the franchise upon the conclusion of his playing career. Of course, if the Twins made such an offer and Mauer accepted it would hamper the Twins from making other moves. But I think it's a risk the Twins are willing to take.

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