Joe Mauer will transition from catcher to first base full-time in 2014, the Minnesota Twins announced Monday.
The Twins and Mauer reached an agreement to make the change from after consulting with team doctors and doctors at the Mayo Clinic, reports Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. Mauer suffered a concussion in August after taking a foul-tip off the mask, and missed the remainder of the season following continued symptoms and multiple setbacks.
The "inherent risk of future injury," factored in to the joint decision to move Mauer, according to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The Twins and Mauer have both seen the damage concussions can cause; first baseman Justin Morneau missed the final half of the 2010 and most of the 2011 season with concussion symptoms, and has not been nearly as productive since his return.
Mauer's bat should still be an asset for Minnesota at first base. He hit .324/.404/.476 last season, and owns a career 136 OPS+. Minnesota owes Mauer $115 million over the next years.
Josmil Pinto could serve as the Twins starting catcher next season. The 24-year-old excelled in limited playing time last year, batting .342/.398/.566 over 81 plate appearances. John Sickels of Minor League Ball wrote about Pinto earlier in the year, stating:
Pinto has legitimate sock in his bat, but scouts don't like his body and he spends a lot of time at DH...most complaints about Pinto revolve around a bad body and doubtful defense, although as I wrote above, his actual defensive stats aren't bad and have gotten better over time.
Pinto has reportedly lost weight, which has helped improve scouts opinion on his defense. If Minnesota believes he can provide adequate defense behind the plate, moving Mauer to first base will help add another quality bat in the lineup.