Joe Mauer on track to return to Twins early next week

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Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger on Tuesday that first baseman Joe Mauer is likely to rejoin the club early next week in Houston after playing in rehab games through the weekend with the Low-A Cedar Rapids Kernels.

Mauer has been on the disabled list since July 2 with a strained oblique. He’ll be looking to finish the 2014 season on a positive note after batting .271/.342/.353 with two homers and 28 RBI over his first 76 games.

Mauer is owed $23 million per year through 2018.

According to FanGraphs’ free agent values, the 31-year-old has been worth $2.8 million this year.

Giants making Brandon Belt available

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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Giants have made first baseman Brandon Belt available in a trade and says that several teams have expressed interest in him.

Which is kind of weird, really.

Belt turns 31 early next season. He hit .253/.342/.414 with 14 homers over 112 games last year due to a knee injury and time lost to an appendectomy. He has a history of concussions and has averaged only 115 games over the last five seasons. Oh, and makes $48 million over the next three years.

Yes, he could be a very useful player if healthy, but taking on that kind of money, even a part of that money, when many very affordable first base/DH options are out there on the market makes little sense to me. Matt Adams. Justin Bour. Lucas Duda. As good as Belt? No, I don’t think so. But way cheaper and requiring less of a commitment.

But hey, rumors are rumors. Let a thousand flowers bloom.