Believe in Byron Buxton
Image courtesy of Kim Klement, USA TodayWhen I posted my spend-happy offseason blueprint earlier this week, full of far-fangled notions, somehow the suggestion that drew most skepticism was a Buxton extension. I've seen numerous people suggest he's no longer a player you can plan around. On Twitter the other day, some dude tweeted at me "Cave is better than Buxton."
It blows my mind that Twins fans, fresh off watching Aaron Hicks achieve superstar status in New York, can make these kinds of comments. Hicks was the original Buxton: He was called up too soon, because his athleticism and minor-league performance were irresistible, and then he endured a long battle with the MLB learning curve. Hicks was so psyched out at one point he briefly gave up switch-hitting.
Now, at age 28, he just put up a top-25 WAR in the majors. He's one of the best players on a championship-caliber team. After plenty of ups and downs, Hicks finally figured it all out, at the center of his theoretical "prime." It's hardly a unique scenario.
And here's the thing: Buxton is WAY BETTER than Hicks. That's not even debatable. Buxton's age-23 season in 2017 was vastly better than any of Hicks' seasons with the Twins through age 25.
Although their paths have been notably similar – from two-way prep stars to first-round draft picks to top prospects to early big-league debuts – Buxton has outpaced Hicks at every step.
And yet, now I see people ready to give up on Buxton, as a 24-year-old coming off an undeniably crappy campaign. We've been here before. And we've seen what happens after.
Yes, there is a chance that Buxton never quite figures it out, or his injury woes prevent him from ever being a truly productive player. It's a bigger chance than it was a year ago. In his own mind, Buxton needs to account for that reality, and so does his agent. Which is why a long-term extension makes all the sense in the world for both sides right now.
A lengthy pact in the $50 million range with an upfront bonus would be more than tenable for the Twins and would seemingly be appealing to Buxton, who could still hit the market around age 30. It would also establish some needed stability in a clubhouse with no long-term commitments, while soothing whatever tension remains after the September snub.
From the moment they drafted him second overall 2012, and watched him blossom into the unanimous top prospect in the game, the Twins have envisioned Buxton becoming their franchise centerpiece right about now. To let one wayward season obscure that view would be to ignore a lengthy history of similar cases – not to mention Buxton's blindingly obvious abilities.
Believe in Byron Buxton. Pay the man. And slow down with the jabs, because they're gonna look absolutely silly in hindsight.
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