After suffering a concussion following a foul tip to his mask in an August 19 game against the Mets, Minnesota Twins six time All-Star catcher Joe Mauer will move out from behind the plate in 2014 and will become the Twins’ starting first basemen. The move was announced via a conference call Monday with Mauer and Twins GM Terry Ryan.
Mauer and Ryan consulted team doctors and doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. who advised the 2009 AL MVP against catching.
“They told me if I were to receive another blow or a concussion, that the recovery time would be as long or even longer,” said Mauer in the conference call.
Mauer, 30, came up with the Twins in 2004 and became the full time starter in 2005. The No. 1 overall pick by the Twins in the 2001. The St. Paul, Minn. Native is a career .323 hitter. Mauer has been given the distinction of being the first catcher in major league history to win a league batting title when he hit .347 in 2006. Mauer has a total of three batting titles with back to back batting crowns in 2008 and 2009. He hit .365 in 2009, the highest average of his career and the second highest in franchise history.
The move fills a hole in the Twins offseason list of needs, but now opens up a major hole at a position that’s possibly been the most stable for the Twins in the last decade. The move also all but rules out a possible return for former Twins first baseman Justin Morneau. The Twins dealt Morneau to the Pirates on August 31.
“First base made a lot of sense,” said Ryan. “He’s played there and he’s a nice target, and he’s got good hands and he’s got good feet.”
So who will fill that hole for the Twins? Among several in-house options for the Twins there are a potential intriguing free agent options. As far as in-house options the guy who has been most talked about has been top prospect Josmil Pinto. Pinto played in 21 games for the Twins as a September call-up. Pinto hit .342 with four homers and drove in 12 runs. Another option is Ryan Doumit. Doumit has also had issues with concussions in the past. Doumit has said he is planning catching again in 2014 despite not catching at all in September. Other names the Twins have on their roster are Chris Hermann and Eric Fryer
The Twins could opt to go the route of free agency. An option the Twins could pursue is Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The 28-year-old catcher was a member of the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox. He hit .273 with the Red Sox, hit 14 home runs and drove in 65 runs.
Another option is Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz who played in 92 games for the Phillies in 2013. Ruiz however seems to figure in as a part of the Phillies plans in 2014.
Another catcher who would make sense for the Twins is former catcher A.J. Pierzynski. A Twin from 1998-2003, Pierzynski could provide insurance and depth on the bench for the Twins if they decide to make Pinto their starting catcher. Pierzynski has proven he can hit at the major league level and is familiar with the organization. He is a durable catcher who has spent relatively little time on the disabled list in his career.
“It was a tough decision because I love catching and it’s something I’ve worked hard at my whole life to become the best catcher I could be,” said Mauer. “So I’m a little disappointed my catching career had to end like this”.