Joe Mauer high five

Joe Mauer is on waivers and someone should claim him

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Jon Heyman of CBS Sports is reporting that Mauer cleared waivers this afternoon.

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Joe Mauer, like so many other stars this month, is on the waiver wire, having been placed on revocable waivers by the Twins. Odds are that he’ll go unclaimed, and even if he doesn’t, it’s highly, highly unlikely that he’ll be traded. For one thing, he has a no-trade clause. For another, it doesn’t sound like the Twins have any real desire to move him.

If, however, a team could get Mauer for free, I’d be in favor of the move. Mauer’s contract is still a risky proposition going forward, but the concerns about it have always been overblown. One thing that makes it more attractive: it’s not backloaded. While most stars get increased salaries as the contracts go along, Mauer is earning exactly $23 million in each of the eight years of his contract, which runs through 2018.

Of course, Mauer has been quiet in the power department since his MVP campaign in 2009. Target Field has a lot to do with that, though. This year, he has five homers and 15 doubles in 58 games on the road, compared to three homers and 11 doubles in 62 games at home. Put him in an environment in which hitting long flyballs would do him more good, and I imagine that Mauer would hit more long flyballs. One of the game’s most talented hitters, he’s definitely capable of suiting his approach to his ballpark.

There is the injury risk, but Mauer appears well on his way to playing in 135 games for the fourth time in five years. Used primarily as a catcher, his all-around game makes him worth his salary even if he’s not a 20-homer guy. If his knees do force him off the position during the back half of his deal, then $23 million per year might be excessive. I still think he’d be at least a $15 million-$20 million player as a first baseman or third baseman, though.

We’ve already heard from CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman that the Red Sox won’t claim Mauer, so that probably means that nobody will. He’s almost certainly still be a Twin come Opening Day. The Red Sox, though, could do a lot worse. Mauer isn’t Adrian Gonzalez, but he’d be a stellar alternative as a No. 3 hitter.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.