Joe Mauer dugout

Joe Mauer won’t be catching in the early part of spring training

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Joe Mauer received a shot of medicine earlier today to help lubricate his left knee joint, according to Kelly Theisier of MLB.com. Of course, Mauer underwent minor surgery in December to take care of some lingering inflammation in the very same knee.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said today that he plans to take it easy with his star catcher in the early part of spring training.

“I want to make sure those things take effect,” Gardenhire said of the shot. “He’s feeling a lot better. You can see him moving and feeling great and we want to keep it that way. So we’re going to kind of guard him and back him off, and we’ll eventually get him in the ballgames, too.”

“I’m not thinking that he’s going to be catching in the games right away, either,” said Gardenhire. “I’m just going to bide my time with that and make sure we get him in situations and get him ready. It’s more important for him to see the pitchers on the side, a few bullpens on the side, but I want to make sure we clean that knee up before we get anything going.”

Maybe we shouldn’t be alarmed quite yet, but the long-term health of Mauer’s knee is obviously of critical importance given the rigors of the catcher position. The 27-year-old has started 105 and 107 games behind the dish in the past two seasons and I’d honestly be surprised if that number will increase as he gets up there in age.

Athletics sign Santiago Casilla to two-year, $11 million deal

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 10: Santiago Casilla #46 of the San Francisco Giants throws a pitch during the 9th inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on August 10, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
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After letting rumors of the deal percolate for the last week, the Athletics officially announced their two-year, $11 million contract with right-hander Santiago Casilla on Friday (and threw a little bit of shade at the Giants, too). As previously reported, the contract includes an extra $3 million in performance bonuses.

Casilla, 36, got his major league start with Oakland back in 2004, racking up a 5.11 ERA and four saves over six seasons in the A’s bullpen. After picking up a minor league deal with the Giants in 2010, the righty flitted in and out of the closing role with varying degrees of success. Notwithstanding a slight downturn in his production rate during the 2016 season, he earned 123 saves and a 2.42 ERA during the past seven years in San Francisco. Securing another closing role might be a little tougher across the Bay, however, with a bullpen that includes fellow closers Ryan Madson, Ryan Dull and Sean Doolittle.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system. Who has the worst?

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 06:  General manager Dave Stewart of the Arizona Diamondbacks laughs on the field before the Opening Day MLB game against the San Francisco Giants at Chase Field on April 6, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Why is this man smiling? Man, I wouldn’t be smiling if I read what I just read.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility.

For the second straight year, Law ranks the Braves as the best system in baseball. Number two — making a big leap from last year’s number 13 ranking – is the New York Yankees. Dead last: the Arizona Diamondbacks, which Law says “Dave Stewart ritually disemboweled” over the past two years. That’s gotta hurt.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone.