Mauer, Twins agree to $33 million, 4-year contract

Monday, February 12th 2007, 6:31 am
By: News On 6

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ AL batting champion Joe Mauer and the Twins agreed Sunday to a $33 million, four-year contract, avoiding salary arbitration and giving one of the team's young stars the security of a long-term deal.

The 23-year-old catcher hit .347 with 84 RBIs last year to help the Twins rally from a 12 1/2-game deficit to win the AL Central on the final day of the regular season. He played in his first All-Star game last summer.

``I'm real excited to be in Minnesota for the next four years and that I'll be playing at home with my family and friends being there,'' Mauer said. ``I'm excited to be there for the opening of the new stadium.''

Selected with the first pick in the 2001 amateur draft out of Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, Mauer was eligible for arbitration this winter for the first time. He became the first catcher to lead the majors in batting average and the first AL catcher to win the batting title.

``We're extremely happy, because there is not a player who belongs with the Twins more than Joe Mauer,'' his agent Ron Shapiro said on Sunday.

Shapiro represented two Hall of Famers, Baltimore's Cal Ripken and Minnesota's Kirby Puckett, who spent their entire careers with the same team. The deal will keep Mauer with the Twins through at least 2010, the year the team is scheduled to begin playing in a new Minneapolis ballpark.

That didn't mean Mauer gave Minnesota a hometown discount, however.

He gets $3.75 million this year, $6.25 million in 2008, $10.5 million in 2009 and $12.5 million in 2010. Mauer has additional award bonuses and gets the right to designate three teams each year that he can't be traded to without his consent.

``This is a market deal,'' general manager Terry Ryan said. ``Don't worry about that.''

Mauer would have been eligible for free agency after the 2009 season.

``This is a good day for this organization, and I feel like it's one of those deals which is going to work for both sides,'' Ryan said. ``You have to be comfortable with how a player's going to respond to security. I don't think there's any question how Joe's going to respond to that.''

Mauer's rookie season in 2004 was cut short by a knee injury that raised some questions about how his body could handle the physical demands of his position behind the plate. But he has been fine ever since.

``That's one of the good things about this situation,'' Ryan said. ``He is in awful good shape and showed it last year.''

Twins pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., by next Sunday. Ryan has one more player left in arbitration, right fielder and cleanup hitter Michael Cuddyer.