There have been a ton of MLB rumors recently about Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer. Friend and colleague Bryan Lutz argued that because the Boston Red Sox recently freed up a significant amount of money and have a need at catcher, first base and designated hitter they would be wise to pick up Mauer. However, there is one important detail we need to keep in mind when dealing with Mauer. He’s no longer capable of being a full time catcher.
Injuries have robbed him of his ability to play 115-130 games a year. Last season Mauer managed to only start 47 games, and this year despite playing in 120 games he’s only started 60 at catcher. At best, Mauer is looking at starting 80 games at catcher. And while his bat is extremely valuable as a catcher, he’s not nearly as valuable at first or DH.
Some of you may be saying Mauer’s 309/403/425 batting line would still make him an above average hitter at DH or first. And while that’s true, it fails to take into account the fact that if Mauer isn’t catching, the Sox need to put a lesser hitter in the field behind the plate. While Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a solid hitting catcher, he’s significantly worse both defensively and with the bat compared to Mauer. And in order to keep Mauer’s bat in the lineup, you’re taking away at bats from your first baseman or your DH, either of whom should be significantly better than Mauer or Salty.
Mauer is a fantastic player – and even if he only plays 80 games at catcher he’s quite valuable. However, the Red Sox trade of Adrian Gonzalez and company was an acknowledgement of the fact that building a team around expensive or injury prone players is not the way to build a competitive ballclub.
There’s no doubt that the Mauer to Boston rumor is an intriguing idea. But if the Red Sox do go through with this trade, it will be a sign that they have not learned from their history, and they will end up right back where they started as an expensive underachieving ballclub.