FORT MYERS, Fla. -- As the start of the 2010 season draws closer, and Joe Mauer remains unsigned beyond this season, the concern from Twins fans over the catcher's future will likely continue to grow.

The expectation all winter has been that the Twins will re-sign Mauer to a long-term contract extension. Yet there has been little news regarding the catcher's contract status in recent weeks.

Neither side is speaking publicly about the negotiations, so not much is known about the status of those talks or what the Twins may be offering Mauer in either years or dollars.

There still appears to be a sense of optimism that a deal between the two sides will get done. But as Opening Day approaches and no deal is in place, Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan raised the unthinkable: Is it possible that the club would trade Mauer if they can't reach agreement on a long-term deal?

So far there have been no indications that the Twins are pondering such a move, but the issue was a hot topic after Souhan's column on Thursday morning.

Such talk appears to be very premature. Mauer's agent, Ron Shapiro, was in Fort Myers for a couple of days last weekend, and there were reports that progress had been made between the two sides.

Shapiro is no longer in town, but that is not exactly a sign that contract talks have broken off or are at an impasse -- negotiations don't have to take place face-to-face.

Two years ago, the Twins moved one of their beloved stars, pitcher Johan Santana, before the final year of his contract after it became clear that the two sides would be unable to reach a long-term extension. Mauer's case is a little different -- as a St. Paul native who won three batting titles, two Gold Glove Awards and an MVP at the age of 26, he is the face of the franchise, one that is about to open a new ballpark.

For now, the Twins are focused solely on trying to re-sign Mauer, so as difficult as it might be for fans, they'll just have to do what the club, Mauer and his agent are doing -- take it one day at a time.