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Joe Mauer and Free Agency

Google the phrases “rosterbation” + “Joe Mauer” and you’ll get 106 results ranging from White Sox to Giants to Orioles links. Everyone wants a piece of the Mauer pie and nobody believes the Twins can afford to re-sign him following next season. Well, nobody but the Twins themselves.

Will the Twins be able to afford Mauer?
“Yeah, we can afford him,” team President Dave St. Peter said.

Whether that is lip service or not is irrelevant at this point. Let’s look at just how much the MVP candidate could be worth after next season.

Please note: this is a conservative estimate, so make adjustments as you see fit. First we have to project his WAR for next season. Figuring Mauer will be worth about 7 WAR, you get figures of 7, 6, and 3 WAR over the last three years. If you simply do a straight mean of the sample, you’d project a little over 5 WAR for Mauer, which leaves you with a 6.3 win player hitting free agency.

We know Mauer 27 next April and 28 the year afterwards, meaning teams will be paying for his age 28 season and onwards. The per win cost will be approximately 5.3 million at this point, so if you assume Mauer will be worth about 6 wins in 2011, his starting price is 32 million. Now the wild card involved is whether Mauer will stick at catcher. If not, his value takes a hit by moving elsewhere, whether it be third or first base, a corner outfield spot, designated hitting, whatever it is, Mauer will automatically lose positional value. On the bright side, he won’t have the toll inflected on him anymore which should help his offensive game.

So let’s say Mauer is worth 6 WAR in 2011 and aggressively loses 0.5 WAR in every season thereafter and some team signed him for six seasons, taking him from age 28 through 33. For a long-term deal Mauer takes a 5% discount and his worth would be an annual rate of 30 million per season. If Mauer gives Minnesota a 5% loyalty discount, we’re still talking around 170 million. That’s a lot of money for anyone, even Minnesota with a new ballpark in tow.

The Twins know their finances better than I would, but unless Mauer really loves the area and takes a team friendly deal, I’m not sure they can meet his market value, and maybe you could argue they shouldn’t given the risks associated with being a catcher.