MINNEAPOLIS -- The contract status of Twins catcher Joe Mauer certainly is a hot topic throughout baseball, and it therefore was no surprise that it was one of the key topics to arise during Twins CEO Jim Pohlad's 45-minute Q&A session with reporters Monday at Target Field. "We're all driven," Pohlad said of the club's effort to sign him to a long-term contract. "We want Joe Mauer as part of the Minnesota Twins." But when it comes to shedding light on how close the two sides are to a long-term agreement, Pohlad politely declined to discuss the issue.
"We've said to both Joe and Joe's agent [Ron Shapiro] that we weren't really going to talk about any negotiations," Pohlad said. Pohlad, who said he has not been involved in the negotiations with Mauer, has in the past mentioned that the organization would consider "legacy contracts" for special players. It would seem that Mauer would fall into that category. Asked to elaborate on the potential term, Pohlad said that it's a contract that would basically take a player to the end of his career. The longest contract in the club's history is Justin Morneau's six-year, $80 million contract signed prior to the 2008 season. But Pohlad said that he would not be opposed to signing a player to a longer deal if the situation were right. "I don't think that six [years] is a magic number in any situation," Pohlad said. "Each deal is different. It's always a function of term and dollars per year, but total value is what drives it. We do not have a term policy." Pohlad did say, however, that the Twins remain opposed to the idea of giving players deferred compensation. It's something that the club has done only a few times in its history, with all of those instances occurring more than a decade ago. In the case of Mauer, the Twins' feeling on the issue of deferred compensation is of interest considering that the two sides will have to try to find a way to give the catcher a salary high enough to entice him to sign and skip the prospect of free agency after the 2010 season without hampering Minnesota's ability to field a competitive team around him during the length of the contract. But the Twins' stance on the issue seems to be pretty firm. "We try to stay away from deferred compensation," Pohlad said. "There's a ton of real-life examples of that kind of thinking. It's either going to be somebody else's problem, or we'll worry about it later. Eventually, you've got to worry about it and then, at that point, it affects your current operation. So it's really not a good thing. In the end you've got to pay the money no matter what. You may as well try to do it when the player is playing for you." The impact of the new ballpark, which will open in April, has given the club reason for optimism regarding Mauer. The expectation of greater revenue already has been seen this winter as the Twins' projected Opening Day payroll for the 2010 season is right around $96 million, a franchise record and a significant increase from last year's $65 million figure. "All new ballparks have their peaks, and I'm sure the initial years will be very good to the Twins," Pohlad said. "Then it'll be up to us to sustain it after that, but the ballpark itself I think can sustain it for a long time. "It's all a function of our revenue. We try to keep [the payroll] within 50 percent of our revenue range. So model-wise, it would indicate that it's sustainable." However, don't look for the Twins, who have made the playoffs in five of the last eight seasons despite modest payrolls, to abandon their shrewd ways. "We're not going to spend the money just to spend the money, though," Pohlad said. "It wouldn't hurt if it dropped below [this level], in my opinion, occasionally. But we're going to try to put the best team on the field in the most prudent financial way. I think we accomplished that this year. I think we're getting, on paper at least, our money's worth." GM Bill Smith and other members of the front-office staff have lauded the club's ownership recently for supporting them in their pursuit to build a team that can contend not simply for the division or the Wild Card, but also in the postseason. That includes allowing the payroll to expand with the recent signings of free agents Orlando Hudson and Jim Thome and a trade for shortstop J.J. Hardy, in addition to trades last season that brought in Orlando Cabrera, Carl Pavano and Jon Rauch to Minnesota to help in the club's late-season playoff push. The Pohlad family also was supportive of the Twins expanding their international and First-Year Player Draft budgets, as well. The Twins signed top Dominican prospect Miguel Sano to a $3.15 million bonus, a franchise record for an international prospect, and they went above slot to sign last year's first-round pick, Kyle Gibson. Pohlad shrugged off credit for those things, saying it was the front office that made the acquisitions possible. But while he said he feels that his family has been at times unfairly characterized as a "relatively disengaged ownership group," Pohlad stressed that they genuinely care about winning and want to see the Twins win another World Series title under their watch. "I just think every year we need to get better so that whoever we face [in the playoffs], we will be able to advance," Pohlad said. "I don't know where the core part of our team is on the maturity level or peak level, but I don't think we're at peak yet. You look at the core group of players. They are still young and have a lot of years left. So I think the future is very strong, and we will advance past the first round of the playoffs and into the World Series and into the White House."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.