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.”

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.