Twins Win Bid For Korean Slugger: Hot Water For Mauer
While the season didn't end the way the Minnesota Twins had hoped for, overall, the direction of the Twins is looking pretty good. After a season where the Twins surprised everyone with a better record than past years combined, there is a lot of optimism and high expectations for next season.
Now the Minnesota Twins and their fans can potentially add even more optimism now that they have officially won the exclusive negotiating rights for Korean slugger Byung-ho Park. The Twins' $12.85 million posting bid was accepted by Nexen, Park's Korean team. Minnesota now has one month to close the deal on the first base slugger.
Now while this could mean great things for the Twins as a whole, it may not be so great for Minnesota's current first basemen Joe Mauer. This move to acquire a top notch first base bat could be detrimental to the former catcher. Whether Twins fans believe it or not, ever since moving to first, Mauer has experienced a severe drop in offensive production. One could say that acquiring Park would mean the end of Joe Mauer in Minnesota. This is the unfortunate time in Mauer's career where lack of production on the field outweighs the ticket/jersey selling benefits that he brings. He may be fading as the face of the Minnesota Twins.
Following his transition from catcher to first base, Mauer has experienced a severe drop in offensive production. Over the past three seasons Mauer's batting average (.324/.277/.265), slugging percentage (.476/.371/.380), and OPS (.880/.732/.718) have endured a steadily sharp decline. Even his great fielding skills have declined over the past three seasons. Every team is always looking to progress with better talent to push towards the postseason and get rid of any extra baggage. The only things that seem to be keeping Mauer afloat at the moment would be his 10+ RBI increase each of the past three seasons and the fact that he has been the face of the Twins organization for quite some time.
Of course, there is just as much of a possibility of Mauer remaining with the Twins. Now that Torii Hunter has retired, the Twins are looking to transition rookie sensation Miguel Sano to the outfield during winter ball which would then allow the possibility of Mauer and Park sharing DH/1B duties. If that scenario doesn't pan out that way, then it might not look so great for Mauer.
Mauer has three years and $69 million left on his contract that includes a full trade clause which would force Minnesota's hand into the only option possible which would be to let him go. If the situation did arrive where Minnesota had pick one or the other, my guess is that the Twins would lean more towards the hot hand in Park who belted 52 and 53 homers in the past two seasons respectively.
Being the eternal optimist that I am, I personally feel that the Twins will retain Mauer and utilize both him and Park equally. After all, Mauer has been a consistent money making figure for the Twins for so long and he's been more than willing to transition to a different position in order to help the team. That should fair pretty well for Mauer, as he has been very flexible with moving positions and always has a positive attitude.
Never the less it will be a very interesting situation to follow over the next month but either way, more excitement is coming to the Twin Cities.