Trading Joe Mauer… and other nonsense.

See, this is what happens when you give writers too much free time and too little real news to talk about. They start thinking. And, as Crash Davis told Nuke LaLoosh in the best baseball movie ever, “Don’t think. You’ll only hurt the ballclub.”

So a Strib columnist had nothing better to do this week than write a column hinting that (a) the Twins’ inability to sign Mauer at this point means there may be some sort of impasse in the negotiations, and (b) that such impasse means that Bill Smith will consider trading Mauer.

Now, personally, I think it’s possible that the whole column was intended to send a message to Smith and Mauer’s agent. Specifically, “We’re tired of nobody telling us what’s going on so until someone starts talking, we’re going to start making crap up!”

There’s been no indication from anyone anywhere (that I’ve heard or read) that the negotiations are in trouble. These folks are talking about paying one player amounts of money that come pretty close to what the Marlins have been paying to their entire team lately… and committing to do it for several years in the future. It should come as no surprise to anyone that it’s taking a bit longer than your run-of-the-mill contract negotiation.

Of course, if the first point did have any basis in fact, it would be hard to argue the second point. Obviously, IF the Twins were at the point where it was looking unlikely that they were going to be able to reach agreement with Mauer and his agent, then absolutely, they have to trade him. It could be argued that the Twins should have let Johan play out his final year and take the two draft picks they’d have received in compensation, rather than trade him for the mediocre (and that’s being generous, the way things worked out) return they got from the Mets. But Joe Mauer is in a whole different category from Santana.

Which brings me to the part of the original columnist’s article that I can’t laugh off… the part that makes you wonder if this guy pays any attention to Major League Baseball whatsoever.

Having dragged his audience to the conclusion that the Twins may not sign Mauer and thus may need to trade him, he proposes that the Twins trade him for… a relief pitcher.

Seriously? They should consider trading arguably the best player in the game, who’s likely entering his prime productive years, for bullpen help? Did he not see what the Jays got for Roy Halladay (Travis d’Arnaud, Kyle Drabek and Brett Wallace) or, in a more accurate comparison, what the Rangers got for Mark Tiexiera (they got Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, Neftali Perez, Matt Harrison, and Beau Jones from the Braves)? And the Twins should get who, for Mauer… Heath Bell?

Now, I realize that Bill Smith’s track record with Twins fans and the local media when it comes to making trades is not real positive. The Delmon Young trade and the Santana trade would hardly be considered “wins” for the organization at this point. But if Bill Smith traded Joe Mauer for a package of players headlined by a relief pitcher, he’d go down in baseball history as the biggest bonehead ever to hold a Major League GM title (and this is a club that includes people like Steve Phillips and Hawk Harrelson!).

It appears that Mauer and his agent have most of the negotiating power right now so if you’re Bill Smith and want to send the message that nobody is irreplaceable, that’s fine. Call the Yankees and ask them what they’d offer for Mauer. Given the direct pipeline the New York writers have to the Yankees Owners’ suite, that story will take all of 30 seconds to be published on the web. That would be “message sent” and you won’t have violated the agreement you’ve made with Mauer and his agent not to talk to the media about the negotiations.

But until we read something along those lines, my suggestion is, “chill”… and if you read or hear something that sounds like nonsense, consider the source because that’s probably exactly what it is. 

If Mauer wants to be a Twin for the rest of his career, he will be offered enough money to make sure he can do so and live in a manner that the rest of us can only dream of. But if it turns out that all the talk about how money isn’t the most important thing, how he’s more concerned about the Twins being committed to winning, etc., is all just PR garbage, the Twins and their fans will survive fine without him.

Unless, of course, Smith is as big a bonehead as any person suggesting he be traded for a relief pitcher.