Mackey: The Twins and Joe Mauer got this one absolutely right
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
I've already seen all of the predictable criticisms of the Minnesota Twins' decision to move Joe Mauer from catcher to first base on Monday.
Corner infielders need to hit for power, and Mauer doesn't hit enough home runs!
$23 million is way too much for a singles-hitting first baseman!
Mauer has more value as a catcher!
Those criticisms are all B.S.
First off, home runs are overrated when standing next to on-base percentage and starting pitching. The San Francisco Giants won the World Series two years ago after hitting the fewest amount of home runs in baseball. And since 2001, the top run-scoring team in the major leagues each year has ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in on-base percentage in all 13 seasons. How many times did those teams rank No. 1 or 2 in home runs? Three times.
On-base percentage is king, and Mauer would have ranked second among first basemen in on-base percentage last year. Mauer also would have ranked sixth in OPS and 10th in slugging among first basemen, and it's likely those numbers will improve without every-day catching duties.
Secondly, according to Fangraphs' dollar valuation system, each Win Above Replacement is worth between $5-6 million. Mauer, despite the concussion, was a 5.2-WAR player worth $26 million in 2013. He is projected to be a perennial 4- to 4.5-WAR player at first base over the next few seasons, which makes him worth more than $20 million per year. Plus, his contract isn't preventing the Twins from signing anyone.
As for the asinine "singles" notion, Mauer was on pace for at least 45 doubles last year before the concussion, which would have ranked third behind only Matt Carpenter and Manny Machado.
And finally, yes, Mauer has more value as a catcher - if healthy. And that's the key. As my esteemed colleague Derek Wetmore pointed out, if Mauer is a 6-WAR player at catcher who misses a month, or maybe more, every season, his value is comparable to playing first base at a 4.5-WAR level almost every day.
Not to mention, Mauer is at an age (31 in April) where catchers traditionally start to drop off significantly. Since 1960, only two catchers have maintained batting averages over .300 from age 31 to retirement (Brian Harper & Don Slaught). Over that same stretch, only four catchers have maintained an on-base percentage over .375 from age 31 to retirement (Gene Tenace, Mickey Tettleton, Darren Daulton, Jorge Posada).
The Twins, and Mauer, got this decision 100% right.