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Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer takes question from reporters during a news conference at the team's training facility in Fort Myers, Fla., Monday, March 22, 2010. Mauer agreed to an eight-year, $184 million contract extension to stay with the Twins. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Editorial: A $184 million gift to fans

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After seeing players like Torii Hunter and Johan Santana leave the Minnesota Twins for more lucrative deals with other teams in recent years, Twins' fans were praying the same wouldn't happen with Joe Mauer.

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Now, they won't have to worry. The team announced Sunday that the reigning American League Most Valuable Player had agreed to a $184 million, eight-year contract extension, the fourth richest deal in the majors. It was the best news fans could have received after also learning Sunday that star relief pitcher Joe Nathan would miss the upcoming season with a serious elbow injury.

It would have been all but impossible to complete a new Mauer deal without the revenue-producing Target Field, which opens in mere days, on the horizon. But keeping the star catcher and three-time league batting champion in the Twin Cities was -- as perhaps the team's braintrust realized -- far more important than just economics.

Mauer, besides his stature as an elite player, is a hometown hero who was drafted by the Twins in 2001 out of Cretin-Derham-Hall High School. He is an outstanding role model and citizens, by nearly all accounts, on and off the field. In short, he is a fan favorite, and his departure to another team would have had a significantly negative ripple effect on attendance and overall team interest.

We're thrilled No. 7 will be entertaining us for years to come right where he belongs -- in Minnesota.

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