MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Twins have placed All-Star catcher Joe Mauer on trade waivers, according to a report by Fox Sports.
Wait, what? Joe Mauer, about to be dealt by his hometown team?
The report on the network's website late Tuesday, attributed to an unidentified "major league source," was enough to raise eyebrows around the sport. It said the waivers on Mauer expired Wednesday.
Twins general manager Terry Ryan declined to comment, citing Major League Baseball's policy prohibiting teams speaking publicly about the waiver wire. The process is supposed to be confidential.
The fact is that big-name, big-money guys like Mauer land on trade waivers in August all the time. Most players in the majors are run through the wire after the July 31 deadline for making non-waiver trades. This is usually not a sign of a team's desire to get rid of an expensive star but more of a procedural move to gauge potential interest in case a legitimate trade offer were to come about.
"Everybody in here's been through it at some point. We've all been run through in the past. It's a non-issue," said first baseman Justin Morneau. "There are probably two guys in the league that don't go through it."
Mauer woke up to the news — and a flurry of phone calls and text messages from friends and family.
"It's part of the game. I was a little surprised about how much coverage, and how many questions I was asked about it," Mauer said.
Here's how it works:
— Many teams run their entire roster through the waiver wire in August just to see what happens. If another club makes a claim on a player, the team that put the player on waivers can simply pull him back and move on.
— The risk to a claiming club is that the team doing the waiving can decide to dump an unproductive, expensive player that way. Or the two clubs can work out a trade, which is what happened when the Boston Red Sox sent Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to the Los Angeles Dodgers last weekend in that whopper of a nine-player deal.
Mauer has a no-trade clause in his contract, so he'd have to approve of any deal. Plus, he's due $23 million annually through the 2018 season. That's a huge chunk of change for any team to take on, particularly for a player with a history of injuries who'll turn 30 next April.
And despite the criticism he faced last year while fighting weakness and soreness in his legs and playing in only 82 games in the first season of his mega-contract, Mauer remains a popular player here as a native of St. Paul who has spent his entire professional career with the organization he grew up cheering for.
Fans have grown frustrated with his lack of power — he has eight home runs this year and just 20 in the three seasons since he won the 2009 American League MVP award — and the percentage of team payroll his salary takes up. But it's hard to envision the Twins better off without him. He has regained his health this year, playing in 120 of the team's 129 games as a catcher, first baseman and designated hitter.
He began Wednesday eighth in the AL with a .309 batting average, and his .403 on-base percentage is second in the league.
"You know if he plays, he's going to produce," Ryan said. "He's done a good job of taking care of his body and getting himself ready to play this season."
Mauer said he's not worried about falling out of favor with the Twins.
"I'm sure it's probably not the first or the last time I'll be on the waiver wire. I'm still just worried about what I'm trying to do today," he said, adding: "I signed here because this is where I wanted to play."