Mauer deal has other catchers licking their chops

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Joe Mauer getting the Twins to fork over $184 million has the other top catchers in the American League dreaming about their next contracts.
Victor Martinez of the Red Sox is an impending free agent, so removing Mauer from next offseason’s catching market could have a huge impact on him. Alex Speier of WEEI.com speculates that “Mauer’s deal might create greater urgency” for Boston to lock Martinez up long term before he can even hit the open market.
Martinez naturally told Speier that Mauer “deserves every penny he got” while adding that the Red Sox know he’s willing to engage in contract talks before the season starts. However, he added that “nothing” has been initiated along those lines yet with just a couple weeks remaining before Opening Day.
A direct comparison is misleading because Mauer is clearly superior to Martinez both offensively and defensively in addition to being four years younger, but Martinez is definitely an elite catcher and has to be thinking that he’s one good, healthy season away from cashing in for at least half of that $184 million.
Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki is thinking along those same lines, albeit jokingly, responding to news of Mauer’s huge contract by saying “I think I’m half as good as him” before correcting himself with “no, he’s not human.” Suzuki will be arbitration eligible next season and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that “the A’s are expected to explore a multi-year deal soon.”

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.