No-trade clause is a key aspect of Mauer deal

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 22, 2010 - 6:32 PM

The Twins don't normally hand out full no-trade clauses, possibly delaying the agreement with Joe Mauer.

I doubt that Jim Pohlad, who calls the shots for the Pohlad family that owns the Twins, or Bill Smith, the team's general manager, will reveal all the exact details behind what went into the negotiation for the contract catcher Joe Mauer agreed to, a deal that the team announced Sunday was $184 million for eight years.

But it's my opinion that the no-trade clause the American League MVP received was one important reason for the long negotiating period. The Twins have negotiated only one other full no-trade clause into a contract before, when pitcher Brad Radke signed a four-year, $36 million deal in 2000. Johan Santana had a limited no-trade clause when he negotiated a four-year, $40 million deal in 2005, but that became a full no-trade clause after he won his 2006 Cy Young Award -- and as a result of that, the Twins needed his permission to trade him after the 2008 season, and what they got for him from the Mets wasn't what it should have been.

The Twins don't normally give no-trade clauses to anybody. Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer have limited no-trade clauses that allow them to list some teams they won't go to.

Anybody who has been around Mauer since he entered the big leagues in 2004 would realize that the great player he is would not want to play in Boston or New York and that it was important to him that his family be able to watch him play.

While Pohlad recently said that the Twins don't believe in deferring payments in their contracts, I wouldn't be surprised if there is deferred money in this one. If there isn't, Pohlad might be going against his policy that the Twins payroll can't be more than 52 percent of the team's revenue. I doubt that the Twins could handle Mauer's contract if it didn't have some deferred money to be paid after his career is over.

Mauer's contract of $23 million per year starting next year figures to be about 20 percent of a payroll that will top $100 million next season.

I don't believe there was ever a chance that Mauer would not stay with the Twins, because of what he means to the franchise. With 2.4 million tickets already sold for this season at Target Field, can you imagine how the great interest in the club would change with Mauer not in a Twins uniform?

Others interested

I doubt that the Yankees or the Red Sox would have matched the contract the Twins gave Mauer.

Two of the Yankees' big stars -- Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera -- have contracts that expire at the end of this season, and the team won't negotiate with them until after the season, potentially risking losing them to free agency. Had the Yankees signed Mauer, it might have meant the pricetags for those players would go up, too.

The Red Sox have a great catcher in Victor Martinez, who can be a free agent at the end of this year, and they haven't signed him.

According to USA Today's website, Mauer's pay starting in 2011 will be almost double what the Twins' Opening Day payroll was in 1988, $12.2 million, that one year after they won their first World Series. Their average player salary was $233,750 that season. When the Twins won the World Series in 1991, their payroll was $22.4 million, with players averaging $600,000.

Looking back to 2001 -- only nine years ago, the year Mauer was drafted out of Cretin-Derham Hall -- the Opening Day payroll was $24.1 million, only $1 million more than Mauer's average salary in his new contract.

The payroll last season was $65.3 million. So starting in 2011, Mauer will be paid about one-third of that.

You have to give credit to the Pohlad family for getting the extension done and not waiting until the end of the season, when Mauer could become a free agent.

However, Mauer was smart, too, because every nickel of that contract is guaranteed regardless if he is sidelined for any reason.

Smith not moving

Gophers men's basketball coach Tubby Smith, upset about the distractions caused when reports get out about him looking for another job, made it clear Sunday he is not going anywhere. There have been rumors about him going to Oregon or Auburn, after similar rumors with Arizona and Virginia, among others, last year.

"Well, it's sort of [that] in this business, it beats the alternative, that's how I look at it," Smith said. "It's a distraction, but you have to use it as a positive, and that's what I'll do when I go in to talk to players and recruits: 'Who would you rather be playing for, son? Somebody that's going to get the job done?' ... and I'm not being arrogant or being boastful, I'm just saying.

"There's no truth to it. I'm not a candidate for any other job. I always talk about the joy -- happiness is very temporary, so you have to be, because I'm not happy now because we lost our last games, so I'm preparing for next year as hard as I can prepare.

"I'm going out and I'm selling this program, selling the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, that we've got people here on our team, we've got administration [that] is backing us, we've got things in place, we're preparing to build a new practice facility. That's what I came here to do, and certainly I'm a guy that wants to fulfill my responsibilities to this program. You're right, it can be a distraction if you let it, just like anything else. External distractions, I tell our players a lot, 'Hey fellas, we have to limit or eliminate as much of that static and external distractions [as possible]. If you're ever going to be successful, you're going to have to learn to just dismiss it, fellas, and not pay any attention to it.' "

Looks like Smith made it clear that his future is at Minnesota.

Jottings

Ryan Wittman, the former Eden Prairie High School standout and son of former Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman, scored 20 points in Cornell's first-round NCAA tournament over Temple and 24 in the Big Red's blowout of Wisconsin on Sunday. In the two upsets, Ryan hit 17 of 25 shots from the floor (68 percent) and hit seven of 11 three-pointers (64 percent).

Northern Iowa, which upset overall No. 1 seed Kansas, has former DeLaSalle and Gophers guard Ben Johnson on its coaching staff. Johnson is in his second year working under Panthers coach Ben Jacobson. And the Panthers have two former Tartan High School players on the team in Kwadzo Ahelegbe, a starting guard who scored 13 points in UNI's first-round victory over UNLV and five against Kansas, and Marc Sonnen, a reserve guard who had two points and three rebounds in 13 minutes against the Jayhawks.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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