The Rangers are about to embark on another stretch of thirteen games in thirteen days. This time, though, it’s against teams that aren’t as daunting as the Astros, Giants, Yankees and Angels.
So, don’t expect them to do as well.
The first three are in Minnesota, starting tonight, against the Twins, a team that, like the Rangers, is saddled with a monumentally bad contract.
With Texas, it’s Shin-Soo Choo. With Minnesota, it’s Joe Mauer.
Choo is the quintessential platoon player who, in eleven seasons, has never made an All-Star team, never won a Gold Glove, never won a Silver Slugger Award, never even sniffed a batting championship. In his entire eleven-year career, in fact, Choo has led his league in only one offensive category. In 2013 he led the National League in being hit by pitches, a bruising 23 times.
That’s it. His plaque in whatever place they have plaques that don’t make it to Cooperstown will read, “Led the NL in HPB in 2013.”
Yes, somehow (Scott Boras), he snaked a seven-year, $130 million contract out of the Rangers. For a part-time player.
What’s worse is, the easy years of his contract are behind the Rangers. He was due $14 million in 2014 and this year. But then the bloodletting really begins. $20 million in 2016, 2017, and 2018. And $21 million in 2019 and 2020.
At least Joe Mauer had some skins on the wall when the Minnesota Twins threw money at him like a drunken sailor on shore leave.
He’s a six-time All-Star. He won the MVP in 2009 and finished in the top ten in MVP voting three other times. He’s won three batting championships, four Silver Slugger Awards and three Gold Gloves. And he was a hometown kid.
Also, he was the chip they had to have to get their ballpark built.
But it all evaporated the minute the Twins signed him to a crazy long-term deal.
This season, Joe Mauer is making $23 million of the $102 million the Twins are paying in total payroll. One guy—him—is getting a quarter of their money.
He stopped catching three seasons ago. Now he plays first base. Had he still been catching, his numbers would be decent, but not spectacular, and they would benefit from his leadership behind the plate. But as a corner infielder, his numbers are anemic:
Last year: 4 HRs, 55 RBIs, .277 AVG, .732 OPS.
This year: 7 HRs, 47 RBIs, .266 AVG, .707 OPS.
He has turned his career into Mitch Moreland, pre-2015, with less power. At almost five times the cost.
The Twins have three more years of Mauer at $23 million per year.
The Rangers have a huge TV contract, play in the fourth largest market in the country, and have owners with deep pockets. They can sustain a Choo contract, and an Andrus contract and, in a few years, a Fielder contract, and still take on a Hamels contract.
They are the guy who sits down at the poker table and blows through his stack of chips on a ten-high hand. He just buys more chips.
The Twins, on the other hand, play in tiny Minneapolis and are crippled by their Joe Mauer deal. When their stack of chips is gone, it’s gone.
This year, they got off to a great start, but because of the Mauer albatross, they could not afford to add substantial talent to stay afloat. It won’t get any better the next few seasons as their great young talent starts maturing and delivering. The Mauer contract is going to prevent them from adding significant pieces to get to the next level.
They will be forced to bottom feed, with the other bottom feeders, and go after C-list guys like the Wandy Rodriguezes and the Ross Detwilers and the Mike Napolis of the world.
A surprising team that was nine games over .500 at the All-Star break is now three games under and in a free-fall.
And Joe Mauer’s cement shoes of a contract is taking them down.