Inbox: Is Mauer to first the right move?
Beat reporter Rhett Bollinger answers Twins fans' questions
What's your take on the Twins moving Joe Mauer from catcher to first base? Do you think it was the right move?
-- Jim B., St Paul, Minn.
It's hard to argue with the decision, because Mauer met with both team doctors and doctors from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and they determined it's in his best interest to move away from catching to prevent any future concussions. When it comes to brain injuries, it makes sense to trust the doctors' take on the situation.
It's obvious that Mauer loves catching and wants to remain behind the plate, but he knows moving to first base will help with his long-term health. He's less likely to suffer another concussion while playing first base, and he also doesn't have to worry about the wear and tear that comes with being a catcher.
The question is if the move hurts Mauer's value moving forward, especially considering he's still earning $23 million a year through 2018. In a sense it does, because he's going from being an elite catcher to a very good first baseman, but that assumes that Mauer would be healthy at catcher, which is far from a guarantee.
Mauer, 30, is likely to be in the lineup much more now that he's not catching, and he even said he believes he can put up better numbers offensively now that he doesn't have to take a beating behind the plate. So it'll be worth monitoring to see how Mauer stacks up with other first basemen around the league, and if his numbers will get better with the position change.
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One of the things the Twins have been missing for a few years is some on the field swagger, with Mauer moving to first, could this mean that A.J. Pierzynski could be coming back to the Twins to play catcher? This would fill that role, what have you heard?
-- Jeremy B., Hermitage, Tenn.
It's true that the Twins don't have any big personalities on the team, especially after losing clubhouse leaders in recent years such as Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau.
Pierzynski would immediately become one of the club's leaders and biggest voices, and he is held in high regard by manager Ron Gardenhire dating from his playing days in Minnesota. Pierzynski would fill a big hole at catcher and could help mentor Josmil Pinto, who looks to be the club's catcher of the future but still needs work behind the plate.
So for all of those reasons, the Twins are interested in Pierzynski, but it comes down to his preference, as he seems much more likely to sign with a contending team. The Twins will likely have to settle for another veteran catcher, and they're more likely to sign one later in the offseason, as general manager Terry Ryan is currently focused on starting pitching.
With Mauer moving to first base, what does that mean for the future of players such as Chris Parmelee and Chris Colabello?
-- Michael T., Minneapolis
It definitely wasn't good news for Parmelee and Colabello, as both players had a chance to see action at first base next year had Mauer remained behind plate and the club decided not to pursue a first baseman via free agency.
Parmelee, 25, is helped by his versatility, as he can also play right field, which is where he played most of last season. But he's really struggled offensively at the big league level the last two years, and he has much to prove next season.
Colabello, 30, is in a tougher spot. He can't play the outfield well enough to be a regular, and he didn't hit well enough last year to be used as designated hitter. The former independent league star dominated Triple-A Rochester, but he had a tough time adjusting in the Majors. Now he's blocked at first base, so he looks ticketed to start the year at Triple-A again next season.
How are some of the top prospects for the Twins faring in the Arizona Fall League?
-- Chris J., Edina, Minn.
Right-hander Alex Meyer, ranked as the club's No. 3 prospect, has only helped his stock, as he's posted a 3.12 ERA with 28 strikeouts and seven walks in 26 innings for the Glendale Devil Dogs. His fastball has also been sitting at about 94-97 mph, and he has proved the shoulder woes that plagued him this year are behind him.
Fellow right-hander Trevor May, ranked as the club's No. 7 prospect, has also pitched well for the Devil Dogs, with a 3.46 ERA with 12 strikeouts and four walks in 13 innings. But hard-throwing reliever Zack Jones saw his AFL campaign end early with an injured finger while fellow reliever A.J. Achter has a 4.09 ERA with 10 strikeouts and three walks in 11 innings.
The club's position players in the AFL haven't fared as well, as first baseman/outfielder Max Kepler is hitting .234/.306/.313 in 18 games and second baseman Eddie Rosario is batting .234/.250/.273 in 19 games.
Byron Buxton, ranked as MLB's No. 1 overall prospect, also hit just .212/.288/.404 in 12 games in the AFL before being shut down with a left shoulder strain. But Buxton's injury isn't considered serious, and he'll be ready for Spring Training.
With Miguel Sano's elbow injury sidelining him for the remainder of the winter ball season, will this affect his chances of being invited to Major League camp this Spring Training?
-- Joe M., Eden Prairie, Minn.
Sano's sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow certainly doesn't help his chance of getting a Major League invite to Spring Training, but if he's healthy, it remains very likely he'll be invited to big league camp.
The injury sounds scary because it involves the UCL, which is the ligament that is repaired by Tommy John surgery, but both Twins doctors and Dr. James Andrews both agreed that he doesn't need surgery.
So as long as Sano rehabs his elbow properly this offseason, he's expected to be ready for the start of Spring Training. He's also headed to the club's Spring Training complex in Fort Myers, Fla., in January so the Twins can track his progress and he can get a head start on getting ready for the season.