Hartman: Mauer's value could help rebuild Twins

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 30, 2012 - 12:47 AM

I don't think they'll trade him, but the club needs lots of pitchers and players to turn around two dismal seasons.

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Joe Mauer hits a two-run single off Seattle pitcher Jason Vargas in the third inning Wednesday.

Photo: Jim Mone, Associated Press

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Joe Mauer has a no-trade clause in his contract, which has six years left at $23 million per season, so the Twins can't trade the great catcher without his permission.

Well, the Twins have a 115-176 record the past two seasons going into Wednesday's game, so one wonders if Mauer is sick of playing with a loser and would accept a trade maybe to one of the bigger franchises where he could make even more money with more endorsements.

On Tuesday Ken Rosenthal, who works for Fox Sports, put out a story reporting that the Twins placed Mauer on revocable waivers. I believe Rosenthal, one of the most reliable Internet reporters, would not have put this report on the Web unless he got the information first-hand from an owner or general manager.

However, Twins owner Jim Pohlad called the report "an exaggeration" and indicated there was nothing to the report.

Twins General Manager Terry Ryan added: "That's a rumor. We're not allowed to talk about that or the process at all. It's going to be out there. It's the 'Rite of August.' It always happens and it will happen a year from now."

There is no doubt in my mind that the Twins brain trust was sitting around and the subject came up of seeing what interest teams would have in acquiring Mauer despite his big contract, and simply decided to place him on waivers that they could easily recall.

Need to rebuild

The Twins are a horrible baseball team, and they will continue to lose unless they can come up with a couple of outstanding starting pitchers and extend the bench so manager Ron Gardenhire, who definitely will be back next year, has some depth on his roster, which he doesn't have now.

Furthermore, going into Wednesday's game with Seattle, the Twins are averaging 3.1 runs during a period when their record is 3-16. Like Joe Christensen pointed out in Wednesday's Star Tribune, this is remindful of the start of the season when the club was 10-26 in mid-May and absolutely nothing like the month of July, when the Twins led the American League in runs scored.

As for Mauer's attitude toward a trade, he wasn't happy with the criticism he took a year ago from the fans and the media, so maybe he might be in favor of playing elsewhere. On the other hand, there are a lot of family advantages for him playing here.

Both the Yankees and the Red Sox are in need of a catcher who can get on base, but the Red Sox have announced they don't have any interest in Mauer.

So the big question is that with no assurance that the Twins will be much improved next year, what would be the attitude of the Twins brass if some club threw a bundle of pitchers and other players who can play now at them in exchange for Mauer?

The catching behind Mauer is in pretty good shape with Ryan Doumit, who just signed a two-year contract extension, as the fourth-leading hitter on the team at .283 with 14 home runs and 60 RBI, and behind Doumit is Drew Butera, who doesn't hit much but is a great defensive catcher.

Personally I hope they don't trade Mauer, and I don't believe they will, but with the club struggling and former mainstays such as Joe Nathan leaving the Twins to pitch for a winner, Mauer might be frustrated by the team's direction and what appears to be a very tough job of turning the tide in the near future.

Gray the key

For the Gophers to win any football games this year, including against UNLV tonight, quarterback MarQueis Gray will have to have an outstanding performance, something coach Jerry Kill is counting on.

"MarQueis has done well. I think he's improved since the Illinois game [last season]," Kill said. "I think he's continued to move forward in his game and I know he feels a lot better going into this opener than he did a year ago at this time going to go play USC.

"He has some experience under his belt, he's executed the offense very well over the last three weeks and hasn't turned the ball over very much."

Kill said the Gophers will only be as good on offense as Gray is.

"I don't think there's any question about that," Kill said. "That doesn't mean he has to run the ball all the time, either, he has to throw the ball, has to be accurate, we have some guys who can catch it, and we have some guys that can run the ball as well."

Kill said Gray, going into his senior season, reminds him of his former quarterback at Northern Illinois, Chandler Harnish, who is now with the Colts.

"[Gray's] transition is very similar to what Chandler Harnish's was from his sophomore to his junior year. Chandler had a very good junior year [compared] to what he had as a sophomore, he was solid and then became very good as a junior.

"I think MarQueis is very similar to that situation, where he has gained knowledge, understands what he's doing. He's been at a huge disadvantage because he was at wide receiver for the first two years of his career. He has had a lot to catch up with but we've been pleased with him and more concerned about getting everybody else around him to play to the expectations that they need to."

Jottings

• The word is that Wild ownership is not happy the team has not been represented by even one player at the union negotiations being held in New York, while most every other club has had players attend.

• Look for Brendan Beal, the Gophers transfer from Florida who has missed two seasons because of injuries and is now healthy, to have a big game defensively against UNLV. Beal, the former Parade All-America, recently has enjoyed some great practices.

• Former Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice played in his first game of the preseason for Seattle last Friday against Kansas City. The Seahawks wanted to ease Rice back into action after the wideout had two shoulder surgeries over the offseason. Rice appeared in nine games last season for Seattle, grabbing 32 receptions for 484 yards with two touchdowns.

• Miguel Sano, who is ranked as the top prospect in the Twins farm system, is hitting .260 with 28 doubles, 27 home runs and 98 RBI for Class A Beloit, but in the field he has made 42 errors at third base.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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