Byron Buxton is currently on the injured list due to a broken hand, but the twins have given him something to think about while he cares. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that Minnesota is hoping to sign Buxton in the long term and recently offered him a deal that guarantees him more than $ 70MM and also includes escalators and incentives – presumably based on health and days spent on the active list .
Now 27 years old, Buxton was number 2 in the overall draft election in 2012 and at various points topped the prospect rankings in Baseball America, MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus and ESPN. There was some early growth pain at the plate as Buxton struggled with strikes and was unable to harness his significant raw power, but in recent years he has shown the versatile talent that made such a high draft and such a high-profile outlook.
Buxton goes back to 2019 and has fought .282 / .322 / .581 with 33 home runs, 44 doubles, four triples and 21 stolen bases (in 25 attempts). That includes World War II so far in 2021, as he has cut down .369 / .409 / .767 by 10 home runs and 11 doubles in just 110 record appearances. Considering that Buxton is without a doubt the best defensive player in baseball, regardless of position, the production on the plate makes him one of baseball’s most valuable players per capita. Game.
The problem for Buxton, of course, has been on the pitch. The unique 2019-21 output came across a sample of only 540 record appearances thanks to a voltage damage. Some have been unclear in nature – his current injury came when he was hit by a pitch; his broken toe in 2018 happened when he threw a ball in the foot – but as Rosenthal points out, Buxton has made 11 career trips to the injured list. This number does not even include a quartet of minor league IL rankings for various injuries, including a few left wrist strains.
There is not a gnawing injury that continues to hamper Buxton, which is both encouraging and frustrating at the same time. He has been dealing with migraines and concussion symptoms after all-out play in the field, a partially torn ligament in his thumb while slipping into the bag on a stolen base, surgery to repair the labrum in his left shoulder and also landed on IL due to a series of strains and sprains over the years.
Because of this amount of damage, Buxton is one of the toughest players in baseball to judge from a contractual standpoint. The above .282 / .322 / .581, 33-homer, 44-double output came in a span of 153 games – roughly a full season’s worth of games. Very few players could put together a stretch that impressed over an entire season – and certainly not with comparable defensive value – but Buxton has only played 100 games in a Major League season on one occasion. It’s easy to argue that even half a season of Buxton is worth $ 10MM-plus, but it’s also understandable if the twins are reluctant with the scope of their guarantee.
One piece of context that should be addressed when looking at a possible extension to Buxton is service time. He will be a free agent after the 2022 season and is arbitrating for the last time this winter, but that’s mainly because Buxton did not get a September call back in 2018.
Buxton landed on the Major League injury list in early 2018 with what was hoped to be a minimal stay due to migraine problems, but he rejected a bullet in the foot during a rehabilitation task and suffered a hairline fracture. He tried to play through the injury at the MLB level, but had perhaps the worst three-week stretch of his career while doing so. Buxton was eventually relegated to IL and, after being activated, was selected for Triple-A. He then held the above-mentioned wrist strains, further extending his stay with minors.
Buxton returned from minor league IL to hit .356 / .400 / .596 in 12 consecutive games down with Triple-A Rochester, but he was not included in the twins in September. This omission prevented Buxton from crossing the threshold of two years of MLB service to three years and pushed his path to free agency back by one year.
GM Thad Levine acknowledged at the time (link via The Athletic) that Buxton’s representatives at Jet Sports Management were “dissatisfied” and “disappointed” by the decision. Buxton even told the Minneapolis Star Tribune the following December that his omission from the team’s collection of September calls “did not go well,” though he later added that he still hoped to spend his entire career with the Twins organization.
The Twins gave Buxton a healthy trip for a Super Two player who came out of an injury-plagued season that winter ($ 1.75MM), but it’s hard to imagine that the September 2018 edition should in any way show up again during contemporary extension talks. Of course, this does not mean that an agreement cannot be drawn up. It just adds another layer to what was already an immensely complex set of negotiations.
There are not many recent examples of a midfielder with five plus years of big league service time to give up free agency and sign an extension, though Aaron Hicks and Charlie Blackmon act as potential reference points. Hicks signed a seven-year $ 70MM contract in the spring of 2019 (six years, $ 64MM in new money). Blackmon signed a six-year $ 108MM contract just after opening day 2018 (five years, $ 94MM in new money). Both had five plus years of service at the time of their expansions, as Buxton is doing now, but both were significantly older than Buxton is now. Buxton is also further away from the open market at present by virtue of the fact that he trades mid-season rather than during the spring training of his walking year. Hicks and Blackmon could very well be talking points raised during discussions, but these data points are far from direct parallels.
In particular, Rosenthal suggests that there is a chance the twins could trade Buxton if the two parties can not agree on a contract extension, although such a move seems more likely in the offseason than when Buxton is on the injured list. with a broken hand. It’s something of a surprise in itself, as even despite their poor 2021 performance, the Twins have a promising young core of controllable hitters and ample payroll flexibility to reload their pitching staff this offseason. There is no sign that the twins are preparing for a long-term reconstruction effort, and it would be difficult for them at the same time to trade Buxton before opening day 2022 and still claim to aim to fight next year.