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Buxton Extending Into the Future

Over the weekend, Jim Bowden of The Athletic tweeted that the Minnesota Twins and star centerfielder Byron Buxton have a mutual interest when it comes to figuring out a long-term extension. Quickly, local names like Mike Berardino and Darren Wolfson noted that while true, that's quite a ways from happening. Although things could come together quickly, it's worth wondering what a deal might look like, and whether or not it makes sense for both sides.
Image courtesy of © Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
As players like Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Jose Berrios, and some of the other developing youngsters push towards extensions, the Twins crossroads is an interesting one. It's at the end of 2018 that star second basemen Brian Dozier sees his four-year, $20 million extension run out. As John Bonnes from Twins Daily reported last week, the Mississippi native believes he's headed for free agency. Minnesota wasn't able to buy into Dozier's free agency years, and retaining him now would require a new deal to be worked out.

For a player like Buxton, the ideal scenario for the Twins would be to lock him up for a considerable amount of time. Obviously on Byron's end, he'll be foregoing arbitration induced pay raises, and will want to be compensated fairly. At 24 years old, and arbitration eligible for the first time in 2019, the clock is ticking. When looking for some level of comparison, another young outfielder comes to mind.
Enter Mookie Betts.

Although Betts doesn't play center field, he's a decent case study when it comes to Buxton. Betts won his second straight Gold Glove for the Red Sox in 2017, and posted his fourth straight season with an OPS north of .800. Across all of baseball, only Betts had more DRS (31) in the outfield than the Twins Buxton (24). The Red Sox right fielder's UZR more than doubled the Twins centerfielder's, and his RngR factor also checked in slightly higher. The breakout was hardly a one-year thing either, as Betts posted dazzling digits across multiple defensive metrics in 2016. Even before reaching tallies of 32 and 31 DRS the last two years respectively, Betts owned marks of 5 and 10 in his first two seasons.

On the offensive side of the diamond, there's little argument to be made that Betts hasn't been the far superior player. In his worst season, an .803 OPS still shines amongst an all-star caliber resume, along with a third straight year of MVP votes. For Buxton, the .728 OPS in 2017 showed part of the promise that made him the number one prospect in all of baseball, but it was still an early season swoon that weighed down his overall numbers.

For Buxton to reach the overall impact that Betts has for the Red Sox, Minnesota will need to see a full 162 games worth of the .796 OPS tallied from June 1st through the end of the season. As Buxton legitimately broke down his swing and rebuilt it at the big league level under James Rowson a season ago, it's an expectation that doesn't seem too incredibly lofty. What is an All-Star candidate based upon a lackluster OPS and his glove alone, is an MVP threat for multiple years in a row when reaching his peak potential.

So knowing they stack up similarly, Betts is a bit further into the process of being paid. While having not been extended by the Red Sox, he's seen raises from $514.7k to $566k, and then further to $950k a season ago. Being arbitration eligible for the first time this season, Betts' case went to a hearing. The Red Sox offered him $7.5 million, while he believed in his being worth more. After having the case heard, the outfielder came out on top and will make $10.5 million in 2018. Over a 10x increase on his 2017 salary, Betts has three more years of arbitration induced salaries before he'll hit free agency.

That $10.5 million Betts was awarded comes in as the second highest salary for a player in his first year of arbitration eligibility, and it was only beaten by Kris Bryant in this same offseason ($10.85m.) It was in this same offseason that Blue Jays third basemen Josh Donaldson set the record for the largest arbitration contract in history, checking in at $23 million. Toronto had worked out a deal to give Donaldson cost certainty each of the past two years with a deal that paid him a total of $28.65 million. Having run out the year before he hits the open market however, the new number is a hefty one.

What the numbers above suggest is that Byron Buxton could have the Twins in a place where they see some really inflated numbers rather quickly. After making $535k in 2017, Buxton's increase is a modest one to $570k. This is the last deal that will be consummated without the intervention of the arbitration system unless a long-term agreement is struck however. If Byron continues to let nothing fall but raindrops, and the bat is in the place it appears to be, the dollar amounts should roll in rather quickly. Minnesota could be looking at numbers like $8m, $10m, $12m, and $15m over the course of the next four seasons. Having yet to earn a seven-figure yearly salary, the Georgia native could be staring at the business end of $45 million in a few short years. While that would still pale in comparison to the value he'd bring in that scenario, a more economically focused route could be beneficial for the Twins.

The current front office wasn't in place when Minnesota agreed to keep Brian Dozier around for $20 million over the course of four years. That being said, this astute collection likely sees the value in a similar cost-certainty model for their superstar centerfielder. Dozier was 28 at the time of his first multi-year deal, while Buxton turned 24 last December. There're plenty of factors at play, but the numbers seem to suggest that giving up a sense of certainty for a level of security is a good play for both sides.

I'm not entirely sure what the numbers would look like (although Seth Stohs provided a great breakdown back in October), but something like $30-35 million through four years of arbitration could be a nice get for all parties involved. No matter what the dollars say however, it appears to make sense, for both Buxton and the Twins, to pencil each other into plans for the immediate future.

Posted originally at Off The Baggy.


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27 Comments

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nicksaviking
Mar 05 2018 12:26 PM

I'm all for an extension and I think the idea that it's a gamble for the Twins would be pretty short-sighted. If he doesn't pan out, they can easily afford to overpay for Buxton now. If he does pan out, they quite possibly could not afford to pay him in the future.

 

Also a side note, man, the prestige of The Athletic clearly has faded quickly if Jim Bowden is writing for them.

 

something like $30-35 million through four years of arbitration could be a nice get for all parties involved

Buxton will only have 3 years of arbitration before free agency (assuming he doesn't get sent down again :) ).

 

Although obviously an extension signed now would also include one pre-arb season, like Dozier's deal, so it would cover 4 years total, at minimum.

I'm not sure how Betts and Buxton are remotely comparable.

fWAR - Betts vs. Buxton

2014 - 1.8 vs. N/A

2015 - 4.9 vs. (0.6)

2016 - 7.9 vs. 1.7

2017 - 5.3 vs. 3.5

 

rWAR - Betts vs. Buxton

2014 - 2.1 vs. N/A

2015 - 6.0 vs. 0.2

2016 - 9.5 vs. 1.9

2017 - 6.4 vs. 5.1

 

Betts has been far and away the superior player. Betts has put up 3 potentially MVP caliber seasons in a row and was always a stud. Buxton has 1 All-Star-ish season and was a middling to poor player for his first 2 years even with elite defense at a premium position.

 

Buxton has an exceptional ceiling, no doubt, but so does Royce Lewis... In any case, Buxton hasn't proven himself except for a single 200 plate appearance stint last year. From August 1st on, while on fire, Buxton still didn't walk (5.3%) and still struck out a lot (27.6%).

 

I'd rather the Twins get another "Prove It" season from Buxton this year before locking him up to what will be a big contract because Buxton's agent isn't going to let the Twins off with a huge discount off his potential. Buxton's arbitration value will be dramatically lower than Betts as Buxton's track record will work against him in a major way.

 

If the Twins wanted to extend Buxton through his arbitration eligible years, 5yrs, $30M-40M is where it should land. If Buxton has a great season this year, it would be 4yrs, $50-60M. There's just not much risk of letting him play it out vs. if he tanks at the plate again.

    • Thrylos and Cris E like this

When healthy, Buxton is one of the most valuable players in baseball. I question that he can stay healthy long term, but giving him a fair salary through the arbitration years would benefit the club.

If you're not going to do what you can to lock up these guys early, but also won't (aka "can't") spend big on free agents, what exactly are you doing?
    • nytwinsfan, IndyTwinsFan and Tomj14 like this

Maybe I'm missing something, but why does this article assume that the contract would be limited to Buxton's remaining four years of control? Especially since Bowden's tweet seemed to suggest both sides were looking "long term," which to me suggests more than just the four remaining years of Twins' control. 

 

As a player with a high floor, Buxton is a great candidate for an extension. The one real risk for the Twins is injury, which should certainly be factored into the price. But otherwise, the chances of Buxton having lower than a 2 WAR season seem really low to me. 

 

I do agree however with the poster above that Buxton is not really very comparable to Betts (who has clearly been the superior player), although I still definitely think Buxton worthy of an extension now. 

    • Danchat, spycake and Original Whizzinator like this
Well, at today's prices, he would probably eclipse $25 million over three years if he plays well. So that is the chance you take. Do you go 4 with an option year (pushing him towards year 30). Can you do it, for say, $26 million and what is the option year...$10...$15?

Who is in the pipeline? The Twins have an abundance of shortstops. Would Kiriloff be the future in 2-3 years? Is Royce Lewis an outfield fixture in that time? I'm sure there are a couple of more names to nady around for the corner spots.

Do you also TRY and do Sano? What one guy signs for will relfect what others get. How do Kepler and Rosario fit into longterm plans.

It seems the new front office will be cautionary when spending monies, along the line of you don't have to obverpay...because players will be there, and if you develop the system right, the pipeline could feed you.

 

Well, at today's prices, he would probably eclipse $25 million over three years if he plays well. So that is the chance you take. Do you go 4 with an option year (pushing him towards year 30). Can you do it, for say, $26 million and what is the option year...$10...$15?

Who is in the pipeline? The Twins have an abundance of shortstops. Would Kiriloff be the future in 2-3 years? Is Royce Lewis an outfield fixture in that time? I'm sure there are a couple of more names to nady around for the corner spots.

Do you also TRY and do Sano? What one guy signs for will relfect what others get. How do Kepler and Rosario fit into longterm plans.

It seems the new front office will be cautionary when spending monies, along the line of you don't have to obverpay...because players will be there, and if you develop the system right, the pipeline could feed you.

I'd lock up Buxton and Berrios.

 

Kepler and Rosario are good players, but haven't yet shown the upside.

 

I'd wait on Sano, lets find out if he sticks at third this year. He isn't getting Josh Donaldson Money if he isn't playing third base.

    • Cris E likes this
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Ted Schwerzler
Mar 05 2018 05:28 PM

 

I'm not sure how Betts and Buxton are remotely comparable.

fWAR - Betts vs. Buxton

2014 - 1.8 vs. N/A

2015 - 4.9 vs. (0.6)

2016 - 7.9 vs. 1.7

2017 - 5.3 vs. 3.5

 

rWAR - Betts vs. Buxton

2014 - 2.1 vs. N/A

2015 - 6.0 vs. 0.2

2016 - 9.5 vs. 1.9

2017 - 6.4 vs. 5.1

 

Betts has been far and away the superior player. Betts has put up 3 potentially MVP caliber seasons in a row and was always a stud. Buxton has 1 All-Star-ish season and was a middling to poor player for his first 2 years even with elite defense at a premium position.

 

Buxton has an exceptional ceiling, no doubt, but so does Royce Lewis... In any case, Buxton hasn't proven himself except for a single 200 plate appearance stint last year. From August 1st on, while on fire, Buxton still didn't walk (5.3%) and still struck out a lot (27.6%).

 

Betts and Buxton aren't comparable over their careers. They are absolutely compared in the vein of 2017, and with the notion that Betts is something similar to Buxton's 100th percentile. In that scenario, you have a layout of what arbitration numbers could come in around.

 

Byron's strong stretch, as noted in the piece, was from June 1 onwards (and obviously better if you decrease the sample size further). Knowing that his fWAR was virtually comprised of 75% defense, being even near Betts' output in 2017 suggests a decent talking point.

 

The idea wasn't that they have had similar careers, but in that should Byron be a candidate for extension in terms of merit derived through max potential, the Red Sox OF is a guy that's a bit ahead of the timeline.

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Ted Schwerzler
Mar 05 2018 05:31 PM

 

Maybe I'm missing something, but why does this article assume that the contract would be limited to Buxton's remaining four years of control? Especially since Bowden's tweet seemed to suggest both sides were looking "long term," which to me suggests more than just the four remaining years of Twins' control. 

 

I do agree however with the poster above that Buxton is not really very comparable to Betts (who has clearly been the superior player), although I still definitely think Buxton worthy of an extension now. 

Obviously the idea is to buy into free agency years. What provides a wrinkle is that you aren't getting a discount once getting past arbitration seasons. Long term can mean any number of things, but I'd imagine both sides will want to do what best positions them. Buxton could give up one year of free agency and still hit the market sub-30, but I doubt he'd want to go much deeper than that.

 

Also, as noted above as well, the idea wasn't in comparing Betts and Buxton. The notion was that Betts over his career, provided a decent comparison to Byron at his best in 2017. There's still plenty of ceiling for the Twins CF, and that being reached likely looks similar to the contract path that Betts has been on. If you want to avoid those numbers, an extension effectively does that.

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Ted Schwerzler
Mar 05 2018 05:34 PM

 

Also a side note, man, the prestige of The Athletic clearly has faded quickly if Jim Bowden is writing for them.

FWIW, I'm a subscriber to The Athletic, and think the content thus far has been great and more than worthy of the modest price point. Bowden's stuff has been less than impressive thus far however. Discussed a mistake with Rosenthal on something JB wrote, and he's probably the guy that brings up the rear when it comes to their M~LB coverage.

 

 

Although Betts doesn't play center field, he's a decent case study when it comes to Buxton. Betts won his second straight Gold Glove for the Red Sox in 2017, and posted his fourth straight season with an OPS north of .800.

 

The comparison is about half right.Buxton has not had an OPS north of .730 in any season (or an OPS north of .705 against RHP in any season.)As a matter of fact he only had an OPS north of .800 for only 2 consecutive months. (July and August of 2018.)

 

If Buxton gets an OPS close to .775 or so, then the Twins should start thinking an extension. Sano should be a higher priority to extend right now, since he is a better hitter and has longer service time

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Walter's Whites
Mar 05 2018 06:48 PM
The question is why would Buxton sign an extension. If he fulfills his potential, he should want to become a free agent ASAP and not have free agent years bought out. If I'm Buxton I'm tempted to bet on myself and get to free agency.
    • Doctor Wu likes this

 

The comparison is about half right.Buxton has not had an OPS north of .730 in any season (or an OPS north of .705 against RHP in any season.)As a matter of fact he only had an OPS north of .800 for only 2 consecutive months. (July and August of 2018.)

 

If Buxton gets an OPS close to .775 or so, then the Twins should start thinking an extension. Sano should be a higher priority to extend right now, since he is a better hitter and has longer service time

I honestly feel like Sano is a bigger risk than Buxton

    • Oldgoat_MN, NoCryingInBaseball, Ted Schwerzler and 1 other like this

I'm one of those "old school" guys who are floored/gobsmacked/amazed at the high salaries the players are commanding nowadays. I know, I know: it's the nature of the times and the economics of the game today. But still ... wow! All that said, it DOES make sense for the Twins to try and extend Buxton as soon as they can. In my mind, he ranks as the team's most valuable player for the next decade.

    • terrydactyls1947 likes this
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puckstopper1
Mar 06 2018 08:46 AM

 

The question is why would Buxton sign an extension. If he fulfills his potential, he should want to become a free agent ASAP and not have free agent years bought out. If I'm Buxton I'm tempted to bet on myself and get to free agency.

 

That is the question of the day, Walter!One answer may be the security it brings him.Signing a long term deal means Buxton is also protecting himself - which as we have seen based on his play and health - may not be a bad thing.Its the old bird in the hand vs. the two in the bush analogy.

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Ted Schwerzler
Mar 06 2018 08:48 AM

 

 Sano should be a higher priority to extend right now, since he is a better hitter and has longer service time

 

Couldn't disagree with this more, and I like Sano. The reality that he could be solely a power hitting DH in a year makes his arbitration numbers far less scary. I'd extend him, but I'd want him to give me more reason to do so than he has thus far.

    • Cris E, Twins33, Oldgoat_MN and 1 other like this
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Ted Schwerzler
Mar 06 2018 08:50 AM

 

The question is why would Buxton sign an extension. If he fulfills his potential, he should want to become a free agent ASAP and not have free agent years bought out. If I'm Buxton I'm tempted to bet on myself and get to free agency.

Even if that's the case, which it very well may be, an extension that simply buys out his arbitration years still gives him guaranteed money and allows for a FA payday.

 

Betts and Buxton aren't comparable over their careers. They are absolutely compared in the vein of 2017, and with the notion that Betts is something similar to Buxton's 100th percentile. In that scenario, you have a layout of what arbitration numbers could come in around.

 

Byron's strong stretch, as noted in the piece, was from June 1 onwards (and obviously better if you decrease the sample size further). Knowing that his fWAR was virtually comprised of 75% defense, being even near Betts' output in 2017 suggests a decent talking point.

 

The idea wasn't that they have had similar careers, but in that should Byron be a candidate for extension in terms of merit derived through max potential, the Red Sox OF is a guy that's a bit ahead of the timeline.

That's now how arbitration works. Arbitration does consider a player's last season, but it also looks at his track record. The first year of arbitration is when the baseline pay gets set.

 

Because Buxton has almost no track record of high level performance, it would kill his arbitration value this year (he's not eligible until next year). If Buxton rakes this year, then he's got some track record to fall back on, then things could get interesting.

 

As a side note, you're seriously undervaluing Betts.

I'm all for trying to sign Buxton to an extension that buys out some FA years. I think he is going to be a good player for many years. However, the idea that the Twins need cost certainty because he could break the bank during his arbitration years is something I can't get behind. First, the chances he actually ends up as a Harper-esque player, who made $40 million in arbitration are incredibly small. Second, even if you sign him to the $30 million dollar "cost certainty" buyout you propose the savings are still only a couple of million dollars a year which would have virtually no impact on the Twins ability to sign free agents.

 

If you're going to talk about his 100th percentile outcome then we should also talk about his baseline too. Billy Hamilton has now gone through two years of arbitration at $2.6 and $4.6 million dollars.

 

I think his best comp might be Lorenzo Cain who started Arbitration 3 years ago. He played outstanding defense and had a .750 OPS in his last pre-arb year and even had questions at the plate with a .658 OPS in his second pre-arb year. He agreed to Arb awards of $2.7, $6.5 and $11 million.

 

Three years ago AJ Pollock agreed to $3.5 and $6.8 million in his first two arbitration seasons.

 

Now you can bump up those numbers slightly due to inflation but it doesn't change the arithmetic much.

 

Given his likely arbitration trajectory it makes no sense to gain "cost certainty" without getting FA years, IMO.

I wouldn't even think about this until after this season. If he is great this season (I think he will be), then you consider it. 

Aside from Buxton's arbitration eligible years, I don't see any reasonable arguments behind the Twins trying to buy out free agent years from Buxton.

 

Buxton will hit free agency at age 28 as things stand. He'll be starting his absolute prime and earlier than 30. If Buxton manages to take the step forward his ceiling suggests he could, he's going to be one of the, if not the, highest paid player in baseball. Think 8-10 years and $360-400 million for his contract. Buying out a couple years of his free agency until age 30 would potentially depress his hypothetical contract a lot, and Buxton and his agent know that so it's going to cost the Twins a LOT.

 

So if the Twins want to pay $20-25M per year for a couple years, they could probably get it done. So for next year assume 3 years arbitration at an average of $15M per year, plus 2 years at $25M and you could probably sign Buxton for 5 more years at a cost of $95M-ish. For a player that has 1/2 a season of eye opening performance, I think that's a crazy risk.

 

Aside from Buxton's arbitration eligible years, I don't see any reasonable arguments behind the Twins trying to buy out free agent years from Buxton.

 

Buxton will hit free agency at age 28 as things stand. He'll be starting his absolute prime and earlier than 30. If Buxton manages to take the step forward his ceiling suggests he could, he's going to be one of the, if not the, highest paid player in baseball. Think 8-10 years and $360-400 million for his contract. Buying out a couple years of his free agency until age 30 would potentially depress his hypothetical contract a lot, and Buxton and his agent know that so it's going to cost the Twins a LOT.

 

So if the Twins want to pay $20-25M per year for a couple years, they could probably get it done. So for next year assume 3 years arbitration at an average of $15M per year, plus 2 years at $25M and you could probably sign Buxton for 5 more years at a cost of $95M-ish. For a player that has 1/2 a season of eye opening performance, I think that's a crazy risk.

The chances of any of this coming to pass are incredibly small but if they do I think the Twins "make a competitive offer" for his services and then shake their head and look back over the last few years and enjoy the back to back World Series the Twins have won and the multiple MVP awards Buxton raked in to go along with his gold gloves.

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ashburyjohn
Mar 06 2018 05:10 PM

The chances of any of this coming to pass are incredibly small but if they do I think the Twins "make a competitive offer" for his services and then shake their head and look back over the last few years and enjoy the back to back World Series the Twins have won and the multiple MVP awards Buxton raked in to go along with his gold gloves.

Mike Trout has no rings to date. Just sayin'.

    • Oxtung and Tomj14 like this

 

Mike Trout has no rings to date. Just sayin'.

Well I've always been known as an optimistic one!

 

:rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes:

    • ashburyjohn likes this

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