Joe Mauer hires IMG as his 'off-the-field agent'

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At this point Minnesotans analyze every Joe Mauer sneeze to determine whether it makes him more or less likely to re-sign with the Twins, so the reaction to this news will be interesting:

IMG, the premier global sports, media and entertainment company, today announced that it has signed the 2009 American League Most Valuable Player, Joe Mauer, for marketing, sponsorships and endorsements.

What does that mean, exactly? Well, here’s a quote from IMG senior vice president Alan Zucker:

While Joe’s on the field activities will continue to be his primary focus, as one of the game’s most talented and popular players we expect that Joe will be of great interest to companies and brands that want to associate with excellence and a proven winner to help grow their businesses. With his trademark sideburns, great popularity and amazing performance on the diamond we believe there is a great opportunity to create and grow a personal brand for Joe.

In other words, IMG has been hired to get him a bunch of endorsements deals.
Mauer is an amazing player with huge popularity in the upper Midwest. He’s also a favorite among female fans and known for, as Zucker mentioned, “his trademark sideburns.” However, in terms of endorsement opportunities his lack of an apparent personality may prove to be an issue. Mauer is a man of few words, and what he does say is typically delivered in a sort of aw-shucks monotone. For an example, check out the less-than-captivating video from his MVP press conference last week.
Plus, according to Sports Business Journal a recent survey found that less than one-fourth of the country can identify Mauer by face or name. By comparison, Derek Jeter and Brett Favre were recognized over 80 percent of the time. Still, if hiring IMG nets him a few more commercials perhaps Mauer won’t be so eager to pursue the largest possible long-term contract. Or so Twins fans can hope. The other good news for Twins fans is that Mauer has not switched “on-field agents.”
He’ll stick with Ron Shapiro to handle any contract negotiations. Shapiro previously represented Twins star Kirby Puckett and has a history of big-name clients who stay with their original teams, which Minnesotans have latched on to for optimism. Shapiro has represented Mauer since the St. Paul native was the No. 1 pick in the 2001 draft and apparently recommended that he find “someone who could manage his marketing needs on a full-time basis.”

Braves sign Bud Norris to one-year contract

Bud Norris

Bud Norris has found a home for his attempt at a bounceback season, signing a one-year deal with the Braves. Jon Heyman of says it’s worth $2.5 million, which is a huge cut from his $8.8 million salary this year.

Norris had established himself as a solid mid-rotation starter from 2009-2014, but had a brutal 2015 season split between the Orioles and Padres with a 6.72 ERA in 83 innings and a late-season move to the bullpen.

In announcing the signing the Braves referred to Norris as a starting pitcher, so joining the rotation for a rebuilding team gives him a chance to get his career back on track with an eye on hitting the open market as a free agent again next offseason. And if he fares well, the Braves could use him to add a prospect or two at the trade deadline.

The Cubs acquire Rex Brothers from the Rockies

Rex Brothers Rockies

The number of people who, if you held a gun to their head, would say that “Rex Brothers” was a game show host and/or local TV news personality from the late 1970s or early 80s is not insignificant. But if you’re a Rockies fan or if spend all day thinking about baseball you know that he’s a reliever who has played in Colorado for the past five years. Now you know him as a reliever for the Cubs:

Brothers — a former Best Shape of His Life All-Star — was pretty good until he hit a brick wall in 2014 and spent most of 2015 in Triple-A. He had something of a bounceback after being called up when rosters expanded in September, but that’s not the sort of thing to excite anyone. He could be useful for the Cubs or just spring training cannon fodder and organizational depth.

Cabrera just turned 18 a couple of weeks ago and pitched a grand total of 14 games in the Dominican Summer League. He’s young and was a $250,000 signee from the Dominican as a 16-year-old so, by definition, he’s a project. Worth giving up Rex Brothers for him if you’re the Rockies, worth risking for some depth in the pen if you’re the Cubs.

Diamondbacks hire Dave Magadan as hitting coach

Dave Magadan Rangers
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Steve Gilbert of reports that the Diamondbacks’ new hitting coach is Dave Magadan, who “parted ways” with the Rangers last month after three years filling the same role in Texas.

Magadan also previously was the Red Sox’s hitting coach and his teams have generally done pretty well, including the Rangers scoring the third-most runs in the league this year.

He’ll have plenty of talent to work with in Arizona, as the Diamondbacks scored the second-most runs in the league led by Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, and David Peralta. Turner Ward, who had been Arizona’s hitting coach, chose to leave the team two weeks ago.

A’s reacquire Jed Lowrie in trade with Astros

Jed Lowrie

Jed Lowrie, who was traded from the Astros to the A’s in 2013 and then re-signed with the Astros as a free agent last offseason, has now been traded back to the A’s.

Lowrie got a three-year, $23 million deal from the Astros with the idea that he’d play shortstop in the first season and then move to another position whenever stud prospect Carlos Correa arrived. Instead he got hurt right away, Correa became an immediate star, and the Astros weren’t so keen on paying him $15 million over the next two seasons.

He could resume playing shortstop for the A’s, who watched rookie Marcus Semien make an absurd number of errors there this year. Lowrie hit .271 with a .738 OPS in two seasons in Oakland, which is similar to his career totals and makes him a solidly above-average offensive shortstop. There’s a decent chance the A’s will have a Lowrie-Lawrie double-play duo in 2016.

In return the Astros get minor leaguer Brendan McCurry, a 24-year-old right-hander who split 2015 between high Single-A and Double-A with a 1.86 ERA and 82/17 K/BB ratio in 63 relief innings. He was a 22nd-round draft pick in 2014 and doesn’t have exceptional raw stuff, but McCurry’s numbers are incredible so far.