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.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts continues to cry poor

Tom Ricketts
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
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MLB owners and the MLB Players Association continue to hash out details, some in public, about a 2020 baseball season. The owners have been suggesting a shorter season, claiming that they lose money on every game played without fans in attendance. The union wants a longer season, since players are — as per the March agreement — being paid a prorated salary. Players thus make more money over the 114 games the MLBPA suggested than the 50 or so the owners want.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has been among the more vocal owners in recent weeks, claiming that the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing shutdown of MLB has greatly hurt MLB owners’ business. Speaking to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, Ricketts claimed, “The scale of losses across the league is biblical.”

Ricketts said, “Here’s something I hope baseball fans understand. Most baseball owners don’t take money out of their team. They raise all the revenue they can from tickets and media rights, and they take out their expenses, and they give all the money left to their GM to spend.” Ricketts continued, “The league itself does not make a lot of cash. I think there is a perception that we hoard cash and we take money out and it’s all sitting in a pile we’ve collected over the years. Well, it isn’t. Because no one anticipated a pandemic. No one expects to have to draw down on the reserves from the past. Every team has to figure out a way to plug the hole.”

Pertaining to Ricketts’ claim that “the league itself does not make a lot of cash,” Forbes reported in December that, for the 17th consecutive season, MLB set a new revenue record, this time at $10.7 billion. In accounting, revenues are calculated before factoring in expenses, but unless the league has $10 billion in expenses, I cannot think of a way in which Ricketts’ statement can be true.

MLB owners notably don’t open their accounting books to the public. Because the owners were crying poor during negotiations, the MLBPA asked them to provide proof of financial distress. The owners haven’t provided those documents. Thus, unless Ricketts opens his books, his claim can be proven neither true nor false, and should be taken with the largest of salt grains. If owners really are hurting as badly as they say they are, they should be more than willing to prove it. That they don’t readily provide that proof suggests they are being misleading.

It’s worth noting that the Ricketts family has a history of not being forthcoming about their money. Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts got into hot water last year after it was found he had used inaccurate information when paying property taxes. In 2007, he bought two properties and demolished both, building a new, state-of-the-art house. For years, Ricketts used information pertaining to the older, demolished property rather than the current property, which drastically lowered his property taxes. Based on the adjustment, Ricketts’ property taxes increased from $828,000 to $1.96 million for 2019, according to The Chicago Tribune. Ricketts also had to pay back taxes for the previous three years.

At any rate, the owners want to pass off the financial risk of doing business onto their labor force. As we have noted here countless times, there is inherent risk in doing business. Owning a Major League Baseball team has, for decades, been nearly risk-free, which has benefited both the owners and, to a lesser extent, its workforce. The pandemic has thrown a wrench into everybody’s plans, but the financial losses these last three months are part of the risk. Furthermore, when teams have done much better business than expected, the owners haven’t benevolently spread that wealth out to their players, so why should the players forfeit even more of their pay than they already are when times are tough?