Joe Mauer may retire after the season

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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.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.