Joe Mauer knows he has a decision to make: either return for a 16th season or end a well-decorated career in which he has become a local icon and one of the best Twins of all-time.
And that decision will not come during the next road trip, or the last homestand or immediately following the end of the season.
Mauer, 35, made it clear Wednesday that he will take his time after the season to consider a multitude of factors before deciding if he will continue playing in 2019.
“There’s a lot that goes into it than just, ‘Do you want to play?’ ” Mauer said before Wednesday’s 3-1 victory over the Yankees at Target Field. “There’s a lot of different dynamics that go into it. 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. Getting little bits from different people that are helping me cultivate this [decision]. I still have a lot to think about. I still have people who I want to speak to.
“It’s interesting. It’s a big decision, and I want to make sure I’m 100 percent about it.”
Mauer is batting .274 this season with six home runs and 43 RBI, far from the numbers that defined most of his career. He still has a .306 career average — the sixth highest among active players with at least 3,000 plate appearances — with an .827 on base plus slugging percentage.
A tough season
At the beginning of the year, it seemed to be a forgone conclusion that Mauer would play beyond 2018, which is the final year of his eight-year, $184 million contract signed before the 2010 season. He was coming off his best offensive season since 2014, batting .305 with a .384 on-base percentage. He was healthy and he was on a team with high expectations after reaching the wild-card game in 2017. He indicated then that he wanted to keep playing if the Twins wanted him.
When Mauer was reminded of that Wednesday he replied: “Yeah, a lot can change in six months. Personally, professionally, physically.”
What could lead Mauer to retire? His slip in production at the plate is one. The plight of the Twins — a roster makeover began at the trade deadline and will continue into the offseason — is another.
So is family. He and his wife, Maddie, are expecting their third child around Thanksgiving. Mauer spoke of how busy he has been helping get his twin daughters ready for another school year.
The events of May 11 also will be considered. That’s when Mauer, during a game in Anaheim, dived after a foul ball and hit the back of his head on the ground. A sore neck turned into a cervical strain with a concussion. Mauer ended up missing 25 games. A concussion forced him to move from behind the plate, where he seemed on track for a Hall of Fame career as a catcher, to first base following the 2013 season.
“I’m not a percentage type of guy, but it is definitely something I need to think about,” Mauer said. “Today, I want to think about trying to beat those Yankees and trying to do the best I can from here on out. Then sit down and go through all the things that have happened to me this year.
“The concussion, third baby on the way. So we have a lot of things to go over. I want to do that and take a deep breath and try to think with a clear mind.”
‘100 percent supportive’
Although Mauer’s numbers aren’t as strong as they have been in the past, former teammate and close friend Justin Morneau looks at Mauer’s .392 batting average with runners in scoring position and still sees someone with the focus and bat speed to help a team.
“As a friend, you want to be there to support him,” Morneau said. “As a fan, I want to see him keep playing.”
Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey and General Manager Thad Levine have not approached Mauer about his plans and will let him take as much time as he needs to make a decision.
“Everyone is 100 percent supportive of Joe’s privacy in this matter,” Levine said. “If he came with us with the question you posed, ‘I’d like to play another season, what does that look like?’ I think we’re rolling up our sleeves and having a conversation with him.”
Falvey added: “We’ve maintained an open dialogue with him about his future. Joe’s earned the right to have that conversation at his own pace. He shared with us that he’d like to see how he feels after the season and gets a chance to digest everything with Maddie and his family. We fully support Joe in that approach.”
On Tuesday, Mauer took a curtain call after blasting a 419-foot grand slam during a 10-5 victory over the Yankees. That’s the second time in recent weeks he has done so following a big home run, as fans roared with approval.
As he nears his big decision, is he starting to take mental snapshots of those scenes, just in case?
“We’ve had some moments,” Mauer said. “It’s been a fun atmosphere there with the crowd. Regardless, this last homestand is going to be pretty emotional, when we come back. I’m already starting to feel a little bit like that.
“Not knowing either way, what direction I’m going. It’s been a grind, a lot of things going on this year. And I’m just trying to enjoy it.”