While that is certainly true, the deal still would not have been possible if not for the products of a nondescript, one-story, white brick building sandwiched between baseball fields in Southwest Florida.
It is here at the Twins minor-league headquarters that they produce something even more vital to the franchise than revenue.
Which is why it was fitting that Mauer officially signed that monster contract in a makeshift interview room on Monday night at the Twins' minor-league headquarters. As soon as it was over, after all the handshakes and hugs and smiles from the Twins, Mauer and just about everyone in his extended family, they were putting away the chairs and returning the building to the business of churning out the inexpensive players that the Twins hope will make this deal work.
General manager Bill Smith said the track record of the Twins farm system in producing talent allowed the franchise to commit such a large sum to one player.
"We've got 25 players of the 40 players on our roster that have only played for the Twins, that are original signees, and we're very proud of that fact," Smith said. "Our scouts do a tremendous job. Our minor-league staff does a tremendous job. Our big-league staff does a tremendous job. They've all been together for 20 years or more. We are confident that they will continue to provide quality players for this organization."
Because Mauer will be making $23 million a year from 2011 to 2018, the Twins will be a franchise that is in flux around him. The Twins have Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel both coming up on free agency after 2011, assuming their options are exercised. Joe Nathan is signed through 2012, including an option. Justin Morneau is signed through 2013.
"We won't keep every player," Smith conceded. "There will always be change."
The caveat is that the Twins will be able to continue replacing the players they can't keep with new, cheap ones from the farm system.
"We've had a good run," Smith said. "We've had a lot of success with it, because we have good people in our minor-league system, our scouting system and our major league coaches. ... We have challenges. Every team is trying to do it. There are going to be cycles, but we have good people, support and patience from ownership and our team president. As long as we are all pulling in the same direction, we are going to be fine."
The Twins are counting on that, and so is Mauer. The reigning AL MVP said that he would not have signed this deal if he didn't get assurances that the franchise would be able to keep a winner around him. Mauer was a kid growing up in the Twin Cities when the Twins won the World Series in 1987 and 1991, and his dream is to be a part of the next World Series winner.
Mauer, who got choked up briefly during the press conference, said he only briefly considered what it would be like to wear another uniform. Mostly, he was committed to staying with the Twins. He and Smith said they never doubted that the deal would get done.
"I love putting on a Minnesota Twins uniform," Mauer said. "I'm really thrilled to be able to do this for the rest of my career. I tell everyone I'm going to give you everything I got. The ultimate goal is to win that World Series. I'm looking forward to doing that."
Mauer's agent, Ron Shapiro, said that the entire negotiation process took about 60 days, which is relatively quick for a deal of this size. The Twins had no doubt they wanted to keep Mauer, a hometown kid with a squeaky clean image and an impeccable on-field record, and Mauer had no doubt he wanted to be with the Twins.
So it was just a matter of money, and thanks to Target Field, the Twins were able to make a bid that was enough to dissuade Mauer from waiting until next fall to see what the big-market teams like the Yankees and Red Sox had to offer.
The Twins aren't in the high-rent district with those teams, but now they're closer.
"I think [Target Field] definitely puts us in the revenue area closer to St. Louis or Seattle," St. Peter said. "We had been at the bottom. Minneapolis-St. Paul was always mischaracterized as a small market, but really we were a mid-size market that was underperforming because of the ballpark we played in."
St. Peter said the Twins thought hard about a $184 million investment, looking closely at revenue projections for the next few years. From his perspective, Smith had to consider the gamble of investing that kind of money in a player who has had some injury problems and who plays the relatively high-risk position of catcher. (Mauer, incidentally, gave no thought to eventually switching to a less taxing position: "I signed to be a catcher.")
In the end, though, Smith concluded that it was a gamble worth taking.
"Joe Mauer is a special player," Smith said. "We have a number of these special players in our organization. We have confidence that he's done things in a short time in his major league career that no other catcher has done before. It's going to be our job to keep him on the field, our training staff's job to keep him healthy. We know the work ethic and we know the skills. We are very confident he'll be a great player for us for many years."