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Published March 21, 2010, 05:13 PM

Joe Mauer agrees to 8-year extension with Twins

The St. Paul native will get $184 million. The deal covers the 2011-2018 seasons and is the fourth largest both in total value and average salary in major league history. Starting next season, Mauer will make $23 million a year. The deal also includes a full no-trade clause.

MINNEAPOLIS - American League most valuable player Joe Mauer has agreed to an eight-year, $184 million contract extension to stay with the Minnesota Twins.

The deal covers the 2011-2018 seasons and is the fourth largest—both in total value and average salary—in major league history. Starting next season, the All-Star catcher will make $23 million a year.

The deal also includes a full no-trade clause.

The team said on Sunday evening that neither Mauer nor team officials would comment until a news conference scheduled for 7 p.m. EDT on Monday at the team’s spring training facility in Fort Myers, Fla.

With the announcement, the entire state of Minnesota can take a deep breath and relax.

“184 million for Mauer! Wow,” Twins center fielder Denard Span tweeted on Sunday night. “I’m glad it got done so we can all concentrate on winning now.”

The 26-year-old Mauer, who has won three AL batting titles and is considered one of the best defensive catchers in the game, was entering the final year of his current contract.

Even though both he and the Twins insisted all along that he would be staying in Minnesota, Twins fans were growing more nervous by the day as negotiations dragged on.

Manager Ron Gardenhire joked this winter that the Twins were simply deciding whether to “give him Minneapolis or St. Paul.”

By the looks of it, the Twins gave him both.

Agent Ron Shapiro and Twins brass eventually worked out the deal, ensuring that the hometown favorite wouldn’t be lured away by one of the many big spenders that were salivating at the thought of adding the sweet-swinging lefty to their battery after this season.

Then the Twins, who have become much more fiscally aggressive as they prepare to open Target Field in 2010, came through with a staggering package.

The $184 million total worth is fourth behind two deals signed by Alex Rodriguez—-the $275 million deal with the Yankees signed in December 2007 and a $252 million contract signed with Texas in December 2000—-and Derek Jeter’s $189 million deal signed with the Yankees in 2001 that expires after this season.

The only players to have a higher average salary than Mauer’s $23 million are Roger Clemens ($28,000,022 prorated deal in 2007—-he actually received $17,442,637—-with the Yankees) and Rodriguez, who had average salaries of $25.2 million under the 2001-10 contract originally signed with Texas that he cut short and $27.5 million in a deal with the Yankees that runs through 2017.

Yankees ace CC Sabathia also has an average salary of $23 million as part of a deal that runs from 2009-15.

Mauer, the St. Paul native, was the No. 1 overall pick by the Twins in 2001 and quickly emerged as a fan favorite. The 6-foot-5 former star quarterback at Cretin Derham-Hall High School almost single-handedly brought sideburns back into style in the Twin Cities and receives marriage proposals by the dozens from giddy female fans at every home game.

Shy and soft-spoken, Mauer has tried to avoid the spotlight, but even that became more difficult as his on-field accomplishments piled up.

Last year, after missing the first month of the season with a back injury, Mauer hit .365 with 28 home runs and 96 RBIs to help the Twins win the AL Central division.

For years, the Twins were considered penny-pinchers, and fans were angered when the team traded ace Johan Santana(notes) to the Mets and let center fielder Torii Hunter(notes) leave in free agency before the 2008 season.

But the Pohlad family has grown bolder in recent seasons as the opening of new, revenue-producing Target Field approached. They signed first baseman Justin Morneau, a close friend and former roommate of Mauer’s, to a six-year, $80 million deal in 2008.

This year they added shortstop J.J. Hardy, second baseman Orlando Hudson and slugger Jim Thome and signed center fielder Denard Span and pitcher Nick Blackburn to long-term deals, showing Mauer that they weren’t afraid to spend the money necessary to surround him with a capable supporting cast.

Then came the Mauer deal, which is $104 million more than they’ve ever spent on a contract and vaulted them into a financial stratosphere typically reserved for the big-market clubs in New York, Boston and Los Angeles.

Now the Twins can christen the new stadium in style when it opens in April, with their homegrown superstar behind the plate for this year and many more to come.

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