Everytime I write something nice or even neutral on Joe Mauer, I get emails. Oh, I get emails. Mostly from people telling me he's overpaid.
Well, if he is overpaid, it's not by much.
There are two ways of assessing a veteran player's monetary value. One is anecdotal. Talk to people in the game. They said Mauer would have made a killing as a free agent had he become one. Can you imagine what the Red Sox would have paid for a potential Hall of Fame catcher in his prime with a swing that might produce 50 doubles a year off the Green Monster, and who would constantly be on base in front of their sluggers? Probably $25 million a year. And all quality free agents end up being paid more than their actual value, because the bidding becomes a competition between super powers.
So Mauer is certainly worth $23 million anecdotally.
In terms of statistical valuation, I always turn to the great site Fangraphs.com, which calculates the obective value of a player.
Here is how Fangraphs values Mauer, year by year, since 2006: $23.1 million, $12.7 million, $26.6 million, $34.5 million, $21 million, $6.1 million and $21.2 million. This year, he is valued, so far, at $21.5 million.
Obviously, when he doesn't stay on the field, he's not worth the money, which is why 2011 was such an abomination.
When he is on the field, he's worth about what the Twins are paying him. Factor in that the Twins signed him in part to keep his contract status from ruining the opening season at Target Field, and he was an incredible bargain from 2006 through 2009, and the Twins and their fans have little to complain about other than the mystery ailments of 2011.
Mauer's real problem is he plays for a bad team. He doesn't have people on base ahead of him, and he doesn't have people who can drive him in batting behind him. He's not as valuable as Miguel Cabrera, but he's more valuable than the great majority of players with big-money contracts.
He's also the Twins' only above-average position player. He's not the guy you should be complaining about.
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