The first indication that Joe Mauer might have been considering retirement came in the seventh inning of the Twins’ 5-4 victory over Detroit on Aug. 17 at Target Field.
Mauer belted a pinch-hit three-run homer to right field and pumped his first as he rounded first base. He then took a curtain call after being urged to do so by his teammates. This was all very un-Mauer-like and the initial conclusion was that he was savoring the moment knowing his career might be winding down.
Mauer, however, hadn’t really elaborated on what he was thinking. That changed Wednesday when the 35-year-old told the Star Tribune that he will consider a multitude of factors before deciding if he will continue to play or retire following the 2018 season.
“There’s a lot that goes into it than just, ‘Do you want to play?’” Mauer told the paper. “There’s a lot of different dynamics that go into it. I owe it to myself and my family to sit down and think about those things.
“I have had some conversations with some people close to me and it’s amazing. Getting little bits from different people that are helping me cultivate this [decision]. I still have a lot to think about. I still have people who I want to speak to. It’s interesting. It’s a big decision, and I want to make sure I’m 100 percent about it.”
Mauer, a St. Paul native who was picked first-overall by the Twins in the 2001 draft, is in his 15th big-league season. Derek Falvey, the Twins’ chief baseball officer, made it clear during an appearance on 1500 ESPN at the Minnesota State Fair that the decision will be up to Mauer and would not come until after the season. Mauer told the Star Tribune the same thing, meaning the Twins’ regular-season finale on Sept. 30 against the White Sox at Target Field could be his final game.
The Twins television team of Dick Bremer, Justin Morneau and Roy Smalley had an interesting reaction when Mauer hit a grand slam on Tuesday in the Twins’ 10-5 victory over the Yankees at Target Field. Morneau, a former teammate and close friend of Mauer’s, talked like a guy who had an inkling that his buddy was giving serious thought to retirement.
It would make sense for Mauer to walk away.
One of the greatest-hitting catchers of all-time — Mauer won three batting titles playing the position — the veteran was moved to first base in 2014 because of concussion problems. When he made the move, Mauer had hit .323/.405/.468 in his first 10 seasons. He had won three batting titles, been named an American League All-Star six times and won the 2009 American League MVP award.
But in the past six years Mauer is batting .276/.358/.387. Mauer hit .305 last season (his first season at .300 since 2013) as the Twins surprised everyone by making the AL wild card game, but he entered Wednesday’s game against the Yankees hitting .272 with six home runs and 43 RBIs. He remains a career .306 hitter and his success while a catcher could earn him a spot in the Hall of Fame.
Mauer’s grand slam on Tuesday — he again followed it with a curtain call — ended a 1-for-23 drought and marked his first four RBIs in September.
Mauer has reasons to consider retirement that go beyond the fact he’s no longer close to being the hitter who won multiple batting titles. He is in the final season of an eight-year, $23 million per season contract and would have to take an enormous pay cut on a short-term deal. Mauer also would be playing for a team that has had a disappointing season and will enter 2019 with limited expectations.
Mauer and his wife, Maddie, have twin daughters and are expecting their third child this offseason. There also is the fact that Mauer suffered another concussion in May while diving for a foul ball and missed 25 games. Mauer has turned himself into a very good first baseman, but does he want to run the risk of suffering another concussion in 2019?
“I’m not a percentage type of guy, but it is definitely something I need to think about,” Mauer told the Star Tribune. “Today, I want to think about trying to beat those Yankees and trying to do the best I can from here on out. Then sit down and go through all the things that have happened to me this year.
“The concussion, third baby on the way. So we have a lot of things to go over. I want to do that and take a deep breath and try to think with a clear mind.”