Joe Mauer on waivers.
Those four words were all it took to throw Twins fans into a frenzy Wednesday as reports surfaced that the Cretin-Derham High star and three-time batting champion was placed into a process that could lead to a trade.
According to a Fox Sports report, Mauer cleared waivers and could be dealt before Friday's deadline -- but there are no indications the Twins are looking to move their $184 million man, and teams routinely put their players -- even their stars -- through waivers. The fact that he cleared waivers suggests clubs didn't want to take on his $23 million annual salary either.
On a day that was supposed to be reserved for the announcement that the 2014 All-Star Game is coming to Target Field, the focus shifted to Mauer and General Manager Terry Ryan. Could Mauer really be about to pack his bags?
"From my understanding of the whole thing, it won't be the first time or the last time I will be put on trade waivers, so it is part of the game and I was a little surprised how much coverage and how many questions I was asked about it," Mauer said.
"I just feel bad for my mom. She was out at the State Fair [Wednesday]. She did a thing for Kemps and I don't think they were talking a lot about ice cream. I should apologize to her here."
Teams are threatened with fines and other penalties from Major League Baseball if they are caught revealing information about waiver moves. So news of Mauer's name surfacing there put Ryan in a spot where he had to address an issue he prefers to leave alone.
But he pointed out that everyone from Kirby Puckett to Paul Molitor to Chuck Knoblauch has been placed on waivers in the past without the Twins being serious about a trade.
"It's the rite of August," Ryan said. "It happens every August. You guys will be asking me the same questions next August as you are now. We usually historically put our roster through waivers in August."
Before July 31, players can be traded without going through waivers. But in August, they have to clear waivers first.
Teams can place up to seven players on waivers a day. Teams have 48 hours to put in a claim on those players. After 48 hours, the team with the worst record in that league is awarded the claim. The sides then have 48 hours to complete a trade. If they don't, that player comes off waivers and can't be dealt for the rest of the season.
According to reports, that's what happened with the Twins and Justin Morneau when the Dodgers put in a claim earlier this month.
"It's something that happens every year," Morneau said. "Usually you don't hear about it. Everybody in here has been run through at some point. It's a non-issue."
Sometimes teams put players on waivers in order to move a big contract. Sometimes teams do it to gauge interest in a player, which could lead to trade talk during the offseason.
"There are strategic reasons why and then sometimes there aren't," Ryan said. "I'm not supposed to talk about this [but] 30 teams do the same thing every August."
So the Twins' ultimate motivation for placing Mauer on waivers will remain a mystery. But it seems clear they want to build a better team around him, not use him as trade bait to build a better team.
Even if they did want to trade him, Mauer has a full no-trade clause in his contract and veto power over any deal.
"I signed here because this is where I wanted to play," Mauer said. "Obviously [the clause] helps, but I'm not going to speculate on anything. This is part of the game and I'm more worried about getting some runs for our pitcher tonight."