Yes, Joe Mauer is worth the long-term risk

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Headline in today’s Star Tribune: “Is Mauer worth the long-term risk.”

I play around with headlines sometimes too, but in this case I’m not
sure what the answer could be besides yes.  And Joe Christensen agrees
in the body of the article:

My view is simple: Get it done. Give him a blank check. If he wants eight to 10 years guaranteed? Fine, whatever it takes.

Well, maybe not ten, but if there’s any player you have to give the big, long-term deal to, it’s Joe Mauer. Still, Christensen runs down the risks involved with Mauer and points to guys like Brian McCann, Jason Kendall and Jorge Posada as players with which to compare Mauer.  Which doesn’t make a lot of sense given that McCann was way younger when the Braves gave him his much cheaper deal, Posada way older and Kendall not worthy of holding Mauer’s jockstrap-holder’s jockstrap.

The comparison that appears nowhere in the article but, in my mind at least, seems most apt: Mike Piazza. While he was a much better hitter than Mauer, he wasn’t nearly the defensive catcher either. Maybe that washes out and maybe it doesn’t, but that’s not the point. The point is that he, like Mauer, was a franchise catcher, the sort of which with whom, if he was your best hitter, you could win a championship.  If the Dodgers had signed Piazza to an eight-year deal after his age-26 season they would have been pretty darn pleased with the results, as Piazza proved highly productive and durable, at least until the eighth year. And he also remained behind the plate that entire time.

I’m not saying you make your decisions based on what the second or third best catcher of all time did, but it’s not like the kind of production the Twins would need from Mauer to make an eight-year deal worthwhile has never happened before.  And given that not signing Mauer is guaranteed to alienate your entire fan base, yeah, you take the risk.

Leonys Martin feared for his life from alleged human traffickers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30: Leonys Martin #12 of the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 30, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Leonys Martin, outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, testified yesterday that he feared for his life after he was smuggled from Cuba by a group of men prosecutors say worked for a sports agent and a baseball trainer currently on trial for human trafficking in Miami.

Martin took the stand at the trial of Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada, who face felony charges. He said that, after getting to Mexico from Cuba, men threatened to take him away. There was a kidnapping attempt against one of the men who had taken him from Cuba as well. Martin said that, eventually, he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas without any valid papers because his life was in danger and his safety was at risk.

Players like Martin who fled Cuba often hole up in Mexico while waiting to be declared free agents by Major League Baseball. There is pitched competition to sign agreements with the players in question, seeking to obtain promises of a cut of future baseball earnings for their services. Those promises can come under the threat of violence. Eventually, Martin promised to pay Hernandez and Estrada, but ceased paying them later, fomenting a lawsuit from them. In the wake of the suit, the allegations of threats and smuggling arose, leading to this trial.

Martin has been late to Mariners camp as a result of having to testify. He’ll likely report in the next day or so. The trial continues.

Josh Hamilton leaves camp with a tweaked knee

SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 28:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers poses during a spring training photo shoot on February 28, 2016 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Josh Hamilton was already a long shot to make the Texas Rangers roster, but his shot got even longer today, as he left camp to have his reconstructed left knee examined after experiencing pain.

As Jeff Wilson reports, Hamilton felt discomfort in the knee during the Rangers’ first full-squad spring training workout yesterday. Hamilton has had 10 knee operations in career. Which is a lot of knee operations in case you were unaware.

You have to wish good luck to Hamilton, but at the same time you have to be realistic. The guy has not played in the major leagues since 2015 and even then he didn’t play well, hitting .253 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 50 games. He appeared in one game last year for Double-A Frisco, on April 30. He’ll be paid $24 million this year, mostly by the Angels. One suspects that this will likewise be his last spring training.