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.”

Report: The White Sox and Diamondbacks are in on Manny Machado

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Buster Olney of ESPN reports that the White Sox and Diamondbacks have emerged as two of the strongest contenders for Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. It seems like a foregone conclusion that Baltimore will deal their superstar infielder this winter, but nothing appears imminent just yet. While both the White Sox and D-backs have reportedly made serious offers, Orioles owner Peter Angelos is wary of any non-contending team that might be incentivized to flip Machado to the rival Yankees next season.

The White Sox, for their part, have assured the Orioles that they view Machado more as a solid one-year rental than the new face of their franchise, with no immediate plans to deal him elsewhere. Given their current rebuilding status and the unlikelihood that they would contend in 2018, it makes their offer a bit of a head-scratcher — and, as USA Today Sports’ Bob Nightengale points out, they’ve been reluctant to put any top-5 prospects on the table in preliminary negotiations.

The Diamondbacks, on the other hand, are far better positioned to enter the postseason in 2018, though that doesn’t automatically make them the perfect landing spot for Machado. They already have Jake Lamb stationed at third base, and while it’s not inconceivable that they could jettison the Ketel Marte/Chris Owings/Nick Ahmed shortstop platoon for someone of Machado’s talent, his $17 million salary appears to be more than the D-backs are currently capable of absorbing.

The White Sox and D-backs may have exhibited the most interest in Machado so far, but they’re hardly the only contenders here. MASN Sports’ Roch Kubatko maintains that the Cardinals and Yankees remain in discussions for the 25-year-old, with Cardinals’ RHP Jordan Hicks and catcher Carson Kelly drawing interest, as well as Yankees’ top prospect Gleyber Torres. Any deal involving the Yankees still feels like a long shot, however; as Craig mentioned on Wednesday, it makes sense that the club wouldn’t want to see their star player hanging around their division rivals in 2018, and the Yankees should be well prepared to make a run at him in free agency next winter.