Twins fans can rest easy.
Joe Mauer made it official last night, signing the deal that could keep him in a Minnesota uniform for another eight years.
The Twins and Mauer announced over the weekend they had agreed to terms that will make the All-Star catcher one of the highest paid players in the game, but neither side would talk until the contract was signed.
Monday night's press conference started with Mauer officially signing the eight-year, $184 million contract before the cameras. He did so with the same pen with which he signed his first professional contract, after he was drafted as the Twins No. 1 pick in 2001.
Mauer then started through the obligatory list of people to thank, and it was clear this was an emotional moment.
"I think it starts with my family that's here," he said, choking up. "They've been there for me my whole life and I wouldn't be here without them."
The contract is the fourth-largest in baseball history and is $104 million more than the Twins have ever given one player. It's also the latest move that signals a front office that's trying to shed its reputation as miserly.
Fans were angered two years ago when the team traded away pitching ace Johan Santana and let center fielder Torii Hunter leave in free agency. But in addition to Mauer, the team this off-season has signed center fielder Denard Span and pitcher Nick Blackburn to long-term deals, and also added shortstop J.J. Hardy, second baseman Orlando Hudson and veteran slugger Jim Thome.
Twins President Dave St. Peter says the Pohlad family, which owns the team, is spending more on players in part because of the increased revenue the team expects to have with the opening of Target Field this year.
"The realization of Target Field, I think, puts the Minnesota Twins clearly in a great position to retain the talent that we work so hard to scout, to draft, to develop in our minor leagues," St. Peter said. "And Joe and so many of our other players in our current roster fit into that mold."
Mauer's signing helps blunt some bad news the team got this week when it learned star relief pitcher Joe Nathan will miss this season with an injury.
While Mauer and other team officials insist they didn't have a firm deadline to get a new deal in place before Opening Day, Mauer did say he didn't want it to be a distraction, either.
It easily could have been. This season is the last on Mauer's current contract, and without a new deal he would have become a free agent this fall. If he stayed healthy, the 6-foot-5-inch, left-handed batting catcher --- with three American League batting titles, two Gold Gloves, and last year's Most Valuable Player award -- would have been a hot commodity.
Mauer admits the idea of free agency did intrigue him.
"I was curious, I can tell you that, what could be out there," he said. "But I always wanted to stay here. That was my main goal; I want to stay here and I want to win here and I think we can do that, and that's why I signed this deal."
And for all the nervousness fans might have had with every day that went by without a deal, general manager Bill Smith says he always felt optimistic.
"It was pretty clear Joe wanted to stay in the Twins organization, and as long as we had that we had confidence that we were going to be able to work it out," Smith said. "The only thing that was going to keep it from happening was stubbornness on one side or the other, and we never had that."
The big dollar amounts are sure to only put more attention on a man who typically shies away from the limelight. When asked about the money, Mauer pointed to his his family, the same family that made him choke up earlier in the evening, and said they would be the ones to keep him in line.