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Joe Mauer Rumors: Contract a Hindrance to Any Trade

Joe Mauer is now officially on the trading block for the Minnesota Twins. The Twins started shopping the former AL MVP once he cleared revocable waivers and can now be traded to any team.

However, the Twins will have difficulty trading Mauer for several reasons, including contractual obligations and a declining ability to perform at the catcher position.

Mauer is in the midst of a resurgence this season after missing significant time during the 2011 season. In only 82 games in 2011, Mauer put up career lows across the board while also performing poorly behind the plate due to injuries.

Thus far in 2012, Mauer was elected to the AL All-Star team and is yet again tops in the majors in many hitting statistics at the catcher position. Mauer is also among the top-ten in the league for batting average and on-base percentage.

Mauer has his fill of awards through a nine-season career, among which are 2009 AL MVP, five All-Star appearances, three Gold Gloves and four Silver Slugger awards. He is also positioned very well this season to earn another Silver Slugger award.

However, with all the awards aside, Mauer will prove difficult to trade for the Twins. At the age of 29, he has a history of injury problems and decreasing defensive abilities, both major red flags for a catcher. Mauer has shown no signs of being accepting of a position change at this point, which could scare off potential suitors.

What is more worrisome for teams looking to deal for Mauer is his contract situation. His current contract, signed prior to the 2011 season, pays $23 million each year until 2018—currently the largest contract ever signed for a catcher in the MLB. That’s an exorbitant amount of money for an injury-prone catcher with declining defensive skills.

There’s no question that Mauer will continue to hit and be one of the most prominent hitting catchers as long as he remains at the position, but the questions of money, defensive value, and physical health are going to drive away many potential trade partners.

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Cincinnati Reds: Mat Latos, Brandon Phillips Shine in Victory

Tuesday night’s victory over the Atlanta Braves proved to be an encouraging sign for the Cincinnati Reds.

Two of Cincinnati’s struggling players, starter Mat Latos and second baseman Brandon Phillips, performed well in the 4-3 win. Latos pitched seven solid innings of two-run ball with eight strikeouts, while Phillips chipped in with two home runs and three RBI.

Latos had especially come under fire after the past offseason trade in which Latos was acquired from the San Diego Padres in return for Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, Edinson Volquez and Brad Boxberger.

Prior to the game, Latos had a 2-2 record and a mediocre 4.63 ERA—nothing close to what Cincinnati expected when GM Walt Jocketty pulled the trigger on the offseason trade. Latos’ ERA has been steadily dropping after a very poor start to the season, which saw his ERA balloon to an enormous 8.22 in April.

Entering the season, Phillips received a contract extension after lengthy extension talks reaching back to last season. His new six-year, $72 million extension came under fire after the soon-to-be 31-year-old Phillips’ production took a dip with only two home runs, one steal and a sub-.300 on-base percentage through a quarter of the season.

Clearly struggling at the plate at times, Phillips’ batting average hit a low at .215 in early May, but since then he has started to turn it around with a .275 average in 20 games this month. Phillips still has a long way to go, with a very poor 8-to-21 walk-to-strikeout ratio and only 10 extra-base hits on the season.

Rookie shortstop Zack Cozart also chipped in with a solo home run, and recently named closer Aroldis Chapman closed out the win with a hitless ninth. Center fielder Drew Stubbs went 1-for-3 with a walk and a steal while making a few plays in the field in another solid performance following Monday night’s two-home run game.

Cincinnati’s next game features rejuvenated Reds starter Bronson Arroyo taking on Tommy Hanson and the Braves once again at Great American Ballpark on Wednesday night.

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Cincinnati Reds: Is Scott Rolen Done for the Season Yet Again?

Yet more worrying news came out of the Cincinnati Reds camp today. According to Jon Heyman of CBS, the shoulder injury to veteran third baseman Scott Rolen has the Reds’ training staff worried that he may not return for the remainder of the season.

Currently labeled as indefinitely out, Rolen’s injured shoulder is the same injury that prematurely ended his 2011 season. It was hoped that Rolen would return sooner rather than later, as original reports stated that he could avoid missing extended time.

Rolen was batting a meager .172 prior to being placed on the disabled list, with two home runs and 11 runs batted in. His batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage are all career lows.

In the last year of his contract and pushing the envelope at 37 years old, Rolen could have played his last game in a Reds uniform if he is indeed out for the season. This season could likely be the shortest of Rolen’s long career, having gone on the disabled list after only playing in 29 games.

In the absence of Rolen, youngster Todd Frazier should draw the majority of starts, although veterans Wilson Valdez and Miguel Cairo should factor in for some time at the hot corner. The recently promoted Mike Costanzo could also see the occasional start if he remains in the majors.

The absence of Rolen leaves a major hole in the lineup for Cincinnati. If Frazier cannot step up and fill the void, GM Walt Jocketty may be forced to make a trade for a bat to bolster the lineup as the trade deadline approaches in July.

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Cincinnati Reds: Is Bronson Arroyo Back to Form?

Although the Cincinnati Reds lost in a wild 13-inning ordeal to the Washington Nationals on Friday night, one player’s performance was good news for the struggling Reds.

Bronson Arroyo, who struggled in his first start of the 2012 season, threw a gem for Cincinnati while the Reds’ bats lay dormant.

In 7.1 innings pitched, Arroyo gave up no runs on only four baserunners (3 hits, 1 walk). He displayed improved command and managed fewer than 100 pitches through his seven-plus innings performance.

As a side note, while the Reds’ bats managed only five hits through 13 innings, Arroyo helped himself by knocking in the Reds’ only run with a sacrifice fly in the top of the fifth inning. Arroyo also had one of the team’s five hits.

Friday’s start was a much-needed improvement over Arroyo’s first start, in which he gave up four earned runs on 10 hits in 6.1 innings pitched. Arroyo was on the hook for a loss after departing in the seventh inning before the Reds’ bats responded with a walk-off win in the ninth inning.

Arroyo struggled through most of 2011, posting a 9-12 record and 5.07 ERA through 199 innings. The 2011 campaign was the first season since 2005 that Arroyo did not post at least 200 innings pitched (albeit he missed by a single inning).

For much of the 2011 season Arroyo was speculated to be either sick or hurt. Velocity was down on his fastball, and his breaking pitches just didn’t seem to break as much as before.

Arroyo was diagnosed with mononucleosis early on, but it was later reported he had gotten over the illness. Yet his pitching improved very little.

Reds fans everywhere must be hoping Arroyo will continue to put out performances like Friday night throughout the rest of the season. The Reds will need Arroyo performing if they are going to make a playoff run in 2012.

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New York Mets: What to Do with Underperforming Outfielder Jason Bay?

Jason Bay is entering his 10th season in the MLB with his best years behind him.

Bay has lost his power and is getting up there in age—34 at the end of the 2012 season.

In 792 at bats with the New York Mets over the last two seasons, Bay has only 18 home runs. That’s less than any other season in his career since winning the NL Rookie of the Year in 2004.

Prior to signing with New York, Bay hit 185 home runs in over 3,000 at bats with the San Diego Padres, Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Red Sox. During this seven year period, Bay averaged a home run every 18 at bats and batted below .260 only once.

With New York, Bay averaged a home run every 44 at bats and has batted below .260 both in 2010 and 2011. He set career worsts in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage in 2011.

No longer able to stay healthy and with heavily declining numbers across the board, Bay is becoming a detriment to a team that already will have difficulty winning in an improving division.

Both costly and and under-performing, Bay will be the second highest paid player on New York’s roster. Due $32 million over the next two seasons, and with a club option for 2014 worth $17 million, it will cost New York $3 million to decline Bay’s option.

New York has several options for dealing with Bay, none of which are particularly appealing.

Releasing Bay would open a roster spot for someone more productive, but would cost the team an extraordinary amount of money simply to not be on the team. New York is already paying Bobby Bonilla nearly $30 million in deferred money through 2035 for this very reason.

GM Sandy Alderson could search for a trade partner in an attempt to recoup part of the money due Bay over the next couple seasons. Most teams would be unwilling to take on a commitment for a player whose output has been as low as Bay’s over the past two seasons.

Bay is getting older, and the deterioration of his level of play is proving his contract signed early in 2010 was a costly mistake.

The best move for New York is to weather the next couple seasons and hope that Bay can improve upon his production in 2010 and 2011.

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