Mauer agrees to eight-year extension
Reigning AL MVP is under contract through 2018 season
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Twins have locked up their hometown star for the long term.
The club has agreed to terms with catcher Joe Mauer on an eight-year, $184 million contract extension, covering the 2011-2018 seasons. The deal includes a full-no trade clause and averages $23 million a year.
The contract is the fourth-largest in Major League history, both in total value and average salary.
A press conference will be held to announce the deal on Monday at 6 p.m. CT at the Twins Conference Center at the Lee County Sports Complex.
Both Mauer and the Twins have agreed not to comment further on the deal until the press conference on Monday evening.
The news of Mauer's signing is bound to delight Twins fans, who wanted nothing more than to see their beloved hometown star signed to a deal that would keep him in Minnesota for the foreseeable future. Mauer's teammates enjoyed the news also.
"I was like, 'Wow that's a lot of money,'" center fielder Denard Span said. "That was my first initial reaction, and second reaction was if anybody is worth it, it's him. I just texted him and told him congrats and said let's play some baseball. It's time to win some games."The deal is the culmination of months of negotiating between the Twins and the 2009 American League MVP, who would have been eligible to become a free agent at the end of the 2010 season. He is set to make $12.5 million this season -- the final year of a four-year, $33 million contract. Mauer, who turns 27 on April 19, did not comment publicly about the negotiations while they were taking place, but he made it clear that his desire has always been to remain with his hometown team. Still, there was growing concern throughout Minnesota as the talks dragged closer to Opening Day that perhaps a deal wouldn't get done. Instead, Mauer's agent Ron Shapiro and the Twins' front office worked out the largest deal in franchise history to lock up the two-time Gold Glove-winning catcher. The largest contract in Twins history had previously belonged to Justin Morneau, who signed a six-year, $80 million contract with Minnesota prior to the 2008 season. A native of St. Paul, Mauer was selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft and the Cretin-Derham Hall alum quickly turned into a local superstar. A shy and modest guy who tries to avoid the spotlight, Mauer has seen his status grow even more in recent years due to his on-the-field success.
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Nearly 4,000 people turned out at Mauer's high school in January to listen to him talk about his life story. The event was for a taping of the ESPN series "Homecoming" with host Rick Reilly that will air in early April. And Mauer has certainly earned the distinction of being an approachable star, even being given the title of "America's Fan-Friendliest Athlete" by ESPN the Magazine. The catcher earned the distinction for taking the time to sit down with his mom and answer all of the letters that he gets from fans.Mauer is coming off a season in which he batted .365 with 28 home runs and 96 RBIs despite missing all of April due to a back injury. He led the league in batting average, on-base percentage (.444) and slugging percentage (.587). Of the 12 American League players to lead the league in all three categories in a single season, 10 are in the Hall of Fame. With his 2009 batting title, Mauer became one of 10 players in Major League history to win three or more batting titles, and the first to win back-to-back batting titles since Nomar Garciaparra in 1999 and 2000. Mauer has a career batting average of .327 in six seasons with the Twins. Since making his Major League debut in 2004, he ranks third among all Major League players in batting behind Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners (.335) and Albert Pujols of the Cardinals (.334). The Twins have been regarded in the past as a very financially fiscal team, having traded away ace Johan Santana to the Mets prior to the 2008 season while allowing center fielder Torii Hunter to leave via free agency that same offseason. But with the Twins set to open their new ballpark, Target Field, next month, the club began to spend money in recent years to keep some of its young stars like Morneau in Twins uniforms. This offseason, the Twins began to acquire some key pieces, likely in an effort to show Mauer they were intent on putting together a winning team around him. "It just means we've got the biggest piece of a team, of our franchise, for that many years," Span said. "He's the type of guy that all you have to do is put a decent supporting cast with him. I think just give him players that complement him and we'll definitely win. He's that type of player."
The Twins traded for shortstop J.J. Hardy while signing second baseman Orlando Hudson and slugger Jim Thome to one-year deals. And Mauer's contract is the third long-term deal that the Twins have inked this spring. They also signed pitcher Nick Blackburn to a four-year, $14 million contract and Span to a five-year, $16.5 million contract.
"I think everybody in the clubhouse likes to see what the organization is doing," Span said. "They know that they are doing things out of the norm for the Minnesota Twins."But Mauer's deal reaches well beyond any previous contract handed out by the Twins. His $184 million deal trails only the 10-year deals for Alex Rodriguez ($275 million in 2008, $252 million in 2001) and Derek Jeter ($189 million in 2001). And the only players to have a higher average salary than Mauer's $23 million are Roger Clemens ($28,000,022 prorated deal with the Yankees in 2007) and Rodriguez, who had average salaries of $25.2 million from 2001-07 and $27.5 million in a deal that runs through 2017. Yankees ace CC Sabathia also has an average salary of $23 million in his deal that runs from 2009-15. Mauer's contract is also the largest signed by a catcher, beating out Mike Piazza's $91-million contract with the Mets that ran from 1999-2005. This deal for Mauer certainly shows a new kind of financial dedication by the Twins. But it seems only fitting that the hometown kid, who has become the face of the franchise and is considered to be one of the best players in all of baseball, will be donning a Twins uniform at Target Field for years to come.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.