The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Twins first baseman Joe Mauer is considering retirement. He has not made up his mind one way or the other and won’t until the offseason, but it’s on his mind. Mauer:
“There’s a lot that goes into it than just, ‘Do you want to play?’ . . . I owe it to myself and my family to sit down and think about those things . . . I have had some conversations with some people close to me and it’s amazing . . . I still have a lot to think about. I still have people who I want to speak to.”
Mauer is in the final year of an eight-year, $184 million contract he signed before the 2010 season, and which did not go into effect until the year after that. At the time he signed that deal Mauer was coming off of an MVP season in which he led the league in batting, on-base percentage and slugging while playing Gold Glove defense as a catcher and had two other batting titles — in 2006 and 2008 — under his belt. He continued playing at a superior level behind the plate in 2010, but just as the contract kicked in in 2011, fate changed the course of his seemingly sure-thing Hall of Fame trajectory.
The first problem was with his knees, which required surgery in the 2010-11 offseason and which continued to cause him complications into 2011, costing him half the season. That, combined with a bout of pneumonia led to 2011 being his worst season up to that point and caused some to begin to question that big deal he received.
Mauer rebounded in 2012, making the All-Star team and once again leading the league in on-base percentage while playing in 147 games. Things would only get worse after that, however. In August 2013 Mauer suffered a concussion on a foul tip that ended both his season and his career as a catcher. Mauer would go on to suffer blurred vision and other concussion-related symptoms for years, substantially affecting his play.
Despite how serious concussions have proven to be for athletes, despite how a concussion had already derailed the career of teammate Justin Morneau, and despite the fact that the Twins themselves clearly acknowledged how serious Mauer’s situation was by moving him to first base after the season, certain segments of the Minnesota press and fan base turned on Mauer. They called him “brittle” and overpaid. Some even doubted Mauer’s symptoms. To this day, certain Twins fans think of Mauer’s salary first and foremost when they consider him and don’t seem to acknowledge just how good, and often great, a player Mauer has been in a Twins uniform.
Despite that, Mauer has continued to play and, at times, play quite well even if he’s not what the Twins envisioned for the second half of his career when they signed him to that extension. His power has basically disappeared but he still gets on base at a respectable rate. He’s no longer the sort of player whose team could go far if he is its best player, but he has the profile of a guy who, if he was not making $23 million a year, might complement a winner quite nicely. The Yankees, for example, have a long and rich history of picking up high-OBP types with a ton of experience and character toward the end of their careers to help them push towards the World Series.
Whether that’s the sort of thing Mauer is interested in doing at his age — he turns 36 early next season, has twin girls and a baby on the way — is an open question. The Twins, for their part, say they are willing to let Mauer take his time to figure out what he wants to do this offseason and have singled their willingness to bring him back at, obviously, a reduced salary. If he does want to play and the Twins don’t bite, there are likely other teams who would bring him in on a short term deal.
It’s all up to him, really. We’ll just have to wait and see.