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Minnesota Twins' signing of Joe Mauer has positive, negative implications for Tampa Bay Rays

Joe Mauer, the reigning AL MVP, signed an eight-year contract extension that keeps him away from the Rays’ AL East rivals but points up the value of a new revenue-generating ballpark.

Associated Press

Joe Mauer, the reigning AL MVP, signed an eight-year contract extension that keeps him away from the Rays’ AL East rivals but points up the value of a new revenue-generating ballpark.

FORT MYERS — Whatever celebrating Joe Mauer and the Twins were doing over his eight-year, $184 million contract extension, Rays manager Joe Maddon wasn't far behind.

With the very real possibility Mauer would land with the Red Sox or Yankees if he got to free agency at the end of the season, Maddon deemed the deal "fabulous" news for the Rays, as well as the Blue Jays and Orioles.

"We really want to thank the Twins for signing him to a long-term deal and keeping him in that division," Maddon said. "We really appreciate that."

As much as the Rays found good in that Mauer will be staying in Minnesota, there are other implications of the deal, from the potential impact on Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria to the reality of seeing yet another team benefit from a new stadium.

On Crawford

Crawford is in the final year of his contract, and it seems unlikely the Rays will be able to, or want to, spend what it would take to keep him, by some guesstimates perhaps $100 million over six or seven years.

Seeing another smaller market team find a way to keep its star player was, in a way, an encouraging sign. "It's good for baseball," Crawford said. "It shows those kinds of teams can compete and still want to keep their players and keep their fan base."

But Crawford said he doesn't think it will help his chances of staying with the Rays because Mauer, like the Yankees' Derek Jeter and even Longoria, are special cases.

"My situation is a little different," Crawford said. "He's one of those guys, you knew they were going to find a way to do it. I think if the Pirates had Joe Mauer, they would have found a way to sign him. So you're just happy for him. He's like the face of baseball. I'm pretty sure if I was in that situation they'd find a way to pay me, too."

There is still some benefit for Crawford. With Mauer off the market, the Red Sox and Yankees could have more interest, and more money to spend, on him.

"We'll have to see how that goes," he said. "But I don't think it hurts."

On stadiums

The Mauer deal is being billed as good for baseball overall and thusly viewed as a positive for teams such as the Rays and for other star-quality players hoping to stay in similar markets.

"As a player coming with a medium- or low-market team, you go, wait a second, maybe I don't have to be a free agent necessarily after my sixth year," veteran Gabe Kapler said.

But a major component to the Mauer deal is the increased revenues from the opening of dazzling Target Field, Twins president Dave St. Peter saying the new park puts them "clearly in a great position" to retain their top talent. And from where the Rays will be standing, inside aging Tropicana Field with no firm plans for a new revenue-generating home, it's just a sign of another team leaving them with the have-nots and joining the haves.

"The contract reinforces how our competitive issues aren't related just to the Red Sox and the Yankees," team president Matt Silverman said.

On Longoria

If the Rays exercise all their options, they can keep Longoria through the 2016 season (for about $43.5 million total), when he'd hit the market at 31 and — given the star power he has already flashed — could be in line for a payday to make Mauer's $23 million average look modest.

As far away as that seems, Longoria said there were residuals to take from Mauer's deal, such as how both sides found a way to make something special work.

"I've always said I'd love to play my whole career in one place," Longoria said. "It's a good thought for me, something I can look forward to. And hopefully when the time comes, I'm able to stay here."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Minnesota Twins' signing of Joe Mauer has positive, negative implications for Tampa Bay Rays 03/22/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 12:04am]

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