Life Beyond Mauer

I’m willing to assume that you’ve already heard that Joe Mauer has agreed upon an 8-year, $184 million contract extension. Believe me, I was certainly happy and excited to hear that the extension was finalized, but I couldn’t help but wish that I could give one of these to Yankee fans around the globe. It was certainly frustrating to constantly visualize them salivating at the thought of Mauer coming to New York, so I’m very happy to see a superstar (especially one from a small- or mid-market team) stay with his team rather than leave for any of New York, Boston, or Los Angeles.

Despite this pleasure in seeing Mauer stay in Minnesota, I can’t help but feel a little frustrated with the contract as well. I won’t call it a bad contract, but I don’t feel that it’s a good one either. $184 million over 8 years means $23 million per year. The front office was so reluctant to go past $95 million for the entire team that it seems like the payroll will remain rather static for at least the next few years. Assuming that it stays at $100 million for the entirety of Mauer’s contract, that means the Twins would still have $77 million to spend. John Bonnes mentioned that in 2012, it’s quite possible that the Twins will have plenty of money coming off the payroll, dropping the payroll (before contract extensions, signing free agents, etc.) to about $58 million, but with plenty of holes to fill on the roster. Once you throw in arbitration cases and possible contract extensions/re-signing players, I agree with John in seeing that the Twins will have the enlarged payroll, but will still spend on free agents like they did for the 2nd half of the past decade. I simply feel that $23 million is a bit too much for Mauer. However, at least it’s not $25 million, and deep down, I am pleased. I’m just trying to look towards our possible complaints in the future.

Speaking of complaints, I got to see a bit of frustration voiced on Twitter today about Clay Condrey after he had yet another poor outing in spring training. Thanks to his rough spring, he currently has a 10.29 ERA with 4 HR allowed, 2 walks and no strikeouts. First, I would like to repeat some comments that I made way back in January when the Twins first signed Condrey.

What can we expect from Condrey? He is a 34 year old righthander that essentially will take over Keppel’s role in the bullpen. His repertoire includes a sinking fastball around 90 MPH, a slider in the mid-80s, a cutter in the high-80s, and a low-80s change-up. He doesn’t strike out very many (career 5.14 K/9), walks a fair amount (career 3.13 BB/9), isn’t too homer-prone (career 0.90 HR/9) but gives up quite a few hits (career .285 opponent’s batting average).

He was actually above average in the hits allowed department last year, but that was due to a great BABIP, especially by his standards. He tended to be in the .330 range (which is horribly unlucky) but in 2009, that dropped to an amazing .260. Condrey is coming off two consecutive seasons with an ERA in the low 3s, but with FIPs nearly a full run higher accompanying these two seasons, it would seem that he is due for an ERA around 4.20 in 2010. But, he’s running on three out of four seasons with ERAs around a full run lower than his FIP (thanks to stranding many runners on base), so maybe he can outperform what his FIP suggests.

Based on the fact that Condrey shouldn’t be paid much more than what Keppel would have received, this isn’t a bad signing for the Twins. They might get the same level of production, but Condrey has posted several seasons with a good ERA, so I do believe that they made a slight upgrade here. However, Condrey figures to only pitch in middle relief, so the improvement is very marginal.

To summarize, I saw Condrey as being a slight upgrade to Bobby Keppel. As we all remember, Keppel wasn’t exactly a fan favorite last year, so “slight upgrade” likely means that Condrey won’t get too many favorable comments either.

Second, Condrey throws a sinker (or 2-seam fastball, depending on your preference). Let me take you on a trip down memory lane.

2008: Brian Bass (spring training: 2.76 ERA, .246 opponent’s batting average in 16 1/3 innings pitched) Career ERA: 4.87

2009: Bobby Keppel (spring training: 2.35 ERA, .241 opponent’s batting average in 7 2/3 innings pitched) Career ERA: 5.36*

* To be fair, I’ll throw in

This little exercise has two purposes. First, unless you think Bass and Keppel have just been unlucky in their careers, do NOT let spring training numbers dictate your opinion of a player. They both pitched well in spring training, but weren’t able to get that success to translate to the regular season. Second, this will be at least the 3rd consecutive year for the Twins to carry a middle reliever that throws a sinking fastball on the roster. Clearly, Bass and Keppel were the previous two. I really feel that Anthony Slama and Rob Delaney are far more deserving of a roster spot, but with the pitching staff leaning heavily towards flyball pitchers, Condrey is needed (in the coaching staff’s eyes) to get that double play or keep the ball in the infield.

Unfortunately, sinkerballers don’t tend to have great strikeout numbers, so it’s almost inevitable that Condrey will have an ERA around the mid-4s this year…unless he keeps stranding runners on base. I know he’s not anyone’s first choice to put in the bullpen and his small contract makes him very appealing to release from the roster, but we just need to deal with the fact that the Twins love having at least one pitcher like Condrey on the roster. If he struggles, he’ll probably be gone sometime in the middle of the season.

Finally, thank you to Joe Mauer and the Twins for getting me to post number 100 in the history of Off The Mark. Maybe I’ll give some sort of “speech” in the next few days

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One Response to “Life Beyond Mauer”

  1. Josh Says:

    Pretty cool that post #100 celebrates Mauer’s historic signing.

    I really don’t think the Twins got a hometown discount at all on Mauer. When this craziness all started, I never thought he’d go above $20 million a year with his injury history. This deal absolutely hamstrings the Twins next year and certainly causes them to cut bait on one of Cuddyer, Nathan or Kubel in 2012. I also question whether they’ll be able to lock-up Morneau when his contract is up in 2013. There will be ramifications.

    The good news, however, is that we have some great talent in Revere, Ramos, Hicks, Valencia, Gibson, Morales, Benson, Sano etc. that will be able to fill in holes rather cheaply. This team still lacks middle infield depth, but I believe we’ll be in the top 1-3 of the division annually through Mauer’s contract length.

    Regarding Condrey, it’s obvious his ERA is reflecting his currently poor mechanics. If you watched his performance today, he was leaving the ball up and his sink was non-existent. As a sinkerballer, I have faith he’ll find his mojo once again. It’s good to have a Condrey on the team to mop up in a blowout or get a key double play. He sure beats the previous “white flags” we threw out there in Bass and Keppel. Fans just need to be patient.

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