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How Mauer affects the Red Sox

03.22.10 at 9:15 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Immediately, the significance of Joe Mauer‘s landmark eight-year, $184 million deal with the Twins was apparent in the Red Sox clubhouse this morning. Players sat huddled, talking about the deal, David Ortiz shouting that the M&M Boys (Mauer and Justin Morneau) on his former club were getting rich.

(As he walked into the clubhouse on Monday morning, Ortiz initially shouted, “(Expletive), Morneau just got paid!” Mike Lowell chided, “It was Mauer, but close enough, David.”)

Thus ends any visions of Mauer becoming the object of a bidding war between the Red Sox, Yankees and several other big-market clubs. Between the deal for Mauer and the injury to Joe Nathan, one can suggest that it was the first time since the days of Kirby Puckett‘s playing career that the Twins were dictating the shape of the high-end market. The fact that the reigning AL MVP will not be available this offseason was greeted with some amusement.

Fellow catcher Jason Varitek agreed, while noting the impact of Mauer’s removal from the potential free-agent market following this season.

“It doesn’t bode well for other teams, probably including us, that [the Twins] got it done before he was gone,” Sox catcher Jason Varitek said with a chuckle. “He’s a premium, premium player.”

“We really want to thank the Twins for signing him to a long-term deal and keeping him in that division,” added Rays manager Joe Maddon. “For us, Toronto and Baltimore, we really appreciate it.”

With Mauer off the market for the next eight years, Sox catcher Victor Martinez immediately vaults to the top of the crop of potential free agent catchers following this year, a crop that also includes A.J. Pierzynski and few other catchers of note. That being the case, it was obvious to wonder whether Mauer’s deal might create greater urgency between the Sox and their own catcher about a long-term extension. But the 31-year-old Sox catcher — who was thrilled for Mauer, and said that the Minnesota star “deserves every penny he got” — said that while he would like to discuss a long-term deal with Boston, there have been no extension talks as he prepares to begins the final season under his contract.

“I already told them through my agent that I was going to be more than happy to [talk] before the season,” Martinez said. “It’s all up to them. … [There's been] nothing ’til now.”

Yet clearly, the Mauer deal will have repercussions for the landscape that Martinez faces in free agency. Mauer set new records for both the length of a deal given to a catcher (surpassing the seven-year, $91 million deal that Mike Piazza signed with the Mets) and for average annual value (blowing away the $13.1 million standard set by Yankees catcher Jorge Posada in his current catching contract). With the Twins superstar off the market, Martinez could also now face a different free agent landscape in which — if he can prove that he is an offensive force as an everyday catcher in 2010 — he will be the best available player at the position.

But Martinez clearly preferred not to consider those market dynamics. Instead, he simply wanted to reflect on the fact that a player whom he respects immensely was not only rewarded, but will now have the opportunity to remain with the only team for whom he’s ever played.

“I’m really happy about Joe and his contract. He really deserves it,” said Martinez. “On the other hand, I just worry about myself. I can’t control anything else, so just worry about being healthy and keeping myself on the field.”

At the least, the Sox face one less concern with Morneau having signed his extension with the Twins. That deal guarantees that he will face Boston for only two or three series a season, as opposed to having to face the catcher as a constant nemesis had he signed with the Yankees or another team in the Sox’ division this offseason.

“That’s great,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “Keep all those guys out of the East.”

For more on the free agent catching market, and Martinez’ place in it, click here.

Read More: Jason Varitek, joe mauer, victor martinez,
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