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Front Page: Kris Bryant Decision Could Have Ramifications for Twins and Byron Buxton

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#1 Cody Christie

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Posted 28 October 2019 - 07:00 AM

Kris Bryant was a star prospect on the way to the big leagues back in 2015, but the Cubs kept him in the minor leagues to pick up an extra year of service time. At least this is what Bryant is alleging in a grievance field with the Major League Baseball Players’ Association. The decision in this case could have ramifications across the baseball landscape with Minnesota’s own Bryon Buxton.Bryant’s Case
Bryant is alleging manipulation of his service time that will keep him from reaching free agency until after the 2021 season. Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, and the MLBPA are arguing that he started the 2015 season at Triple-A, so the club could delay his service-time, a move that is entirely within an organization’s rights.

That spring, he had hit .425 with nine home runs in 40 at-bats and those numbers were no accident. In an interview with Sahadev Sharma at The Athletic, Bryant talked about how he trained differently for that spring so he could put up strong numbers and make it hard for the team to send him down.

“It was so obvious,” Bryant told The Athletic. “‘Oh, he’s gotta work on his defense.’ Stuff like that. But now I can look back on it and just laugh about it because I was told to work on my defense… and I think I got three ground balls in those games that I played. So it’s like, ‘Oh, now he’s ready.’”

He made his big-league debut on April 17, 2015, which meant he only missed 12 days that season. Still, he will fall one day short of being eligible for free agency after the 2020 campaign.

Buxton’s Case
Buxton’s own service time issue doesn’t exactly mirror Bryant’s, but he could have an argument if Bryant wins his case. During the 2018 season, Buxton struggled through multiple injuries and ended the year on the Rochester Red Wings roster. He wasn’t made a September call-up and this choice didn’t sit well with Buxton at the time.

“Yes, I ain’t sugarcoating nothing,” Buxton told the Star Tribune last December. “It kind of didn’t go over well.”

Migraine headaches, a broken toe and a strained wrist cost him much of the 2018 season, but his health seemed to be improving in August with Rochester. He batted .365/.400/.596 (.996) with nine extra-base hits in 12 games and he had every reason to think his performance warranted a September call-up. But by keeping him down, the Twins picked up another year of team control. Instead of reaching free agency following the 2021 season, Buxton will have to wait until after the 2022 campaign.

Minnesota had reasons for keeping him down including a lingering wrist injury, poor strike zone discipline, and not enough playing time at the big-league level. However, Thad Levine admitted service time played a role in why Buxton was kept in the minors.

"I think part of our jobs is we're supposed to be responsible to factoring service time into every decision we make," Levine said. "I still feel pretty resolute in saying that the other three factors were more present for us in this decision-making process than that. We wouldn't be doing our jobs if we weren't at least aware of service-time impacts on decisions we make."

Realistically, this is an issue that needs to be addressed in the next collective bargaining agreement. There’s not timeline for a decision in MLBPA’s case for Bryant and there’s no guarantee he will win, but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.

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#2 jgfellows

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Posted 28 October 2019 - 07:31 AM

The Twins could make this right by offering a contract to him that makes this bad faith move irrelevant.

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#3 JW24

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Posted 28 October 2019 - 07:45 AM

I supported the Twins decision last year with how they handled Buxton. I thought it made complete sense in that it gave the organization an extra year of team control (and evaluation) for a guy who played 3 phenomenal months of baseball over 4 partial years of MLB play. It also prevented Buxton from sustaining some sort of injury that would have prevented him from coming into 2019 at full strength. I got roasted on Twitter by a some Twins beat writers, but I think it was the correct decision by the front office.

 

The issue at hand isn't that the front office has done Kris Bryant or Byron Buxton wrong, but the fact that the rules regarding team control provide incentives to teams to hold players down in the minors to gain an extra year of team control. Players are rightfully getting fed up with ownership fielding less than their best teams for weeks/months at a time in order to save some money years down the road.

 

Finally, the free agent market from the past couple years shows how reluctant front offices are becoming to paying for past performance. Players will struggle to receive fair compensation over the course of their careers (based on production) due to how long teams can suppress salaries for players on rookie contracts. Mitch Garver is a perfect example; he will not become a free agent until he is 33 years old in 2024. Without an extension from the Twins prior to becoming a free agent, he stands to make ~$15M (estimate). If he were able to be a free agent this off season he would get a contract making at least $15M per year until 2024. By the team he actually is eligible for free agency, he might be playing year-to-year. Rules need to be adjusted to compensate guys sooner in their careers and remove the incentives to hold players in the minor leagues for financial gain, in my opinion.

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#4 In My La-Z-boy

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Posted 28 October 2019 - 08:06 AM

 

I supported the Twins decision last year with how they handled Buxton. I thought it made complete sense in that it gave the organization an extra year of team control (and evaluation) for a guy who played 3 phenomenal months of baseball over 4 partial years of MLB play. It also prevented Buxton from sustaining some sort of injury that would have prevented him from coming into 2019 at full strength. I got roasted on Twitter by a some Twins beat writers, but I think it was the correct decision by the front office.

 

The issue at hand isn't that the front office has done Kris Bryant or Byron Buxton wrong, but the fact that the rules regarding team control provide incentives to teams to hold players down in the minors to gain an extra year of team control. Players are rightfully getting fed up with ownership fielding less than their best teams for weeks/months at a time in order to save some money years down the road.

 

Finally, the free agent market from the past couple years shows how reluctant front offices are becoming to paying for past performance. Players will struggle to receive fair compensation over the course of their careers (based on production) due to how long teams can suppress salaries for players on rookie contracts. Mitch Garver is a perfect example; he will not become a free agent until he is 33 years old in 2024. Without an extension from the Twins prior to becoming a free agent, he stands to make ~$15M (estimate). If he were able to be a free agent this off season he would get a contract making at least $15M per year until 2024. By the team he actually is eligible for free agency, he might be playing year-to-year. Rules need to be adjusted to compensate guys sooner in their careers and remove the incentives to hold players in the minor leagues for financial gain, in my opinion.

Yes and Yes - Players association traditionally sets the rules favoring veterans, at the expense of rookies. We'll see what happens next. Buxton case has no merit. Bryant does. The Twins deserve an extra year I believe. I also believe we either sign him or trade him this winter - making this irrelevant.

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#5 gunnarthor

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Posted 28 October 2019 - 08:13 AM

I think both players got screwed and it made me like baseball a little less in both cases. I think the author is right that the next CBA is going to have to address this b/c that's probably the only way this will get fixed. 

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#6 Blake

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Posted 28 October 2019 - 08:15 AM

Weren't there rumors of the FO approaching Buxton about buying out some of Buxton's arbitration years, similar to the contracts of Polanco and Kepler and Buxton turning the Twins down?

 

I don't see where Buxton really has a gripe, because if it's true, he would have been paid a lot of money for playing in Triple A ball.


#7 JW24

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Posted 28 October 2019 - 08:16 AM

 

Yes and Yes - Players association traditionally sets the rules favoring veterans, at the expense of rookies. We'll see what happens next. Buxton case has no merit. Bryant does. The Twins deserve an extra year I believe. I also believe we either sign him or trade him this winter - making this irrelevant.

With Buxton, I think the Twins have had every intent of signing him to a huge contract once he earns it with his play on the field. His 3 month stretch in 2017 and the way he started 2019 certainly showed he is deserving of a huge extension, health permitting.

 

Gaining the extra year of team control does not prevent the Twins from offering Buxton an extension; it provides both team and player with additional time to evaluate on-field performance and discuss future value. I hope the Twins offer Buxton an extension this off-season (I think he will figure out how to stay healthy, nothing to support my opinion), rendering the extra year of control relatively moot.

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#8 Badsmerf

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Posted 28 October 2019 - 08:24 AM

Bryant will almost certainly win his case, and Buxton will likely file too.... and win. It was stupid leaving him off the roster in September last year, and the Twins deserve whatever comes from it.
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#9 Jham

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Posted 28 October 2019 - 09:11 AM

Bryant will almost certainly win his case, and Buxton will likely file too.... and win. It was stupid leaving him off the roster in September last year, and the Twins deserve whatever comes from it.


Based off what? Did the Cubs or Twins violate a rule or do the players not like the deal their reps negotiated after the fact?

Do you think the veteran hanging on to his roster spot is just like, "here kris, take my spot and paycheck." The players' diverse interest is part of the issue too. Vets and Rookies might not have the same interests. Paying young players more, realistically means paying veteran players less.
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#10 Jham

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Posted 28 October 2019 - 09:21 AM

I think both players got screwed and it made me like baseball a little less in both cases. I think the author is right that the next CBA is going to have to address this b/c that's probably the only way this will get fixed.


Look at how much service time and MLB salary Buxton has received while on the IL/DL. Look how patient we were allowing him to accumulate service time while struggling with the big club. We could have optioned him this September but didn't.

His injury history almost assuredly plays in. After last year, the team certainly could have activated Buxton then optioned him out of spring training in the traditional manner of holding a player back. If he killed it on September and ST, then keep him up and don't worry about service time. But you're leaving yourself vulnerable for another tweak and more IL service time you can't get back.
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#11 Shaitan

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Posted 28 October 2019 - 09:37 AM

I don't see how this could affect Buxton, unless he files his own grievance and waits another 4 years for the case to be heard. At which point he'll be past arbitration anyway. Bryant and Boras filed this in 2015.

 

While it's undeniable that teams manipulate the clock, Bryant and Buxton are very different cases. Bryant was called up 1 day later and hasn't been demoted since. Buxton has been back-and-forth since day one, and the stats in 2017 would likely back up the Twins' 2017 decision.

 

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#12 Battle ur tail off

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Posted 28 October 2019 - 10:15 AM

 

Bryant will almost certainly win his case, and Buxton will likely file too.... and win. It was stupid leaving him off the roster in September last year, and the Twins deserve whatever comes from it.

 

I don't agree at all. Buxton has had 2 months of good baseball in his career and the rest of it, he has been one of the worst hitters in the league. To be honest, I am still not sold on his bat. He doesn't have a gripe until he can hit with consistency and also not get simple stupid injuries to keep him off the field. So far, he has been as fragile as a China doll. 

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#13 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 28 October 2019 - 10:23 AM

I don't think Buxton and Bryant are the same at all. Buxton had plenty of really bad on field results in 2018 and as was noted spent plenty of time on the DL too... That will get factored in I'm sure. The team is going to argue (and rightly so) that Buxton didn't earn that callup. 

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#14 DocBauer

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Posted 28 October 2019 - 10:25 AM

Me personally, I'm weary of the arguement as it feels we've already been down this road multiple times before.

I like Buxton. I believe in a healthy Buxton. I believe the team does as well, and would love to pay him a nice extended contract.

But considering all the injuries and poor performance, I just dont see how a hot streak at the end of the AAA season necessarily warranted some automatic ML promotion for a player who had been through so much.
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#15 MMMordabito

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Posted 28 October 2019 - 11:19 AM

 

I believe in a healthy Buxton. 

 

... which is starting to sound like believing in the Easter bunny .... Everytime you think you see him, he hops into the hedge (shoulder first).

 

Buxton isn't going to have the case that Bryant does. His injury history printout probably weighs as much as the title for Johnny Cash's Psychobilly Cadillac. It's way to much to point to as legitimate reason for not calling him up.  

 

Tony Clark just can't be reached, so you get what we've had here the last several years which is the way Tony wants it. Well, he gets it. And I don't like it any more than you (wo)men.

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#16 Badsmerf

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Posted 28 October 2019 - 11:47 AM

Buxton absolutely earned a call up. I remember arguing this topic ad nauseam. He was healthy, was the day 1 starter, and was not brought back because of service time.... also was the day 1 starter in 2019. Health and performance had little to do withholding a promotion in September of 2018.

Buxton and Bryant aren't identical cases, but they are similar. Bryant's case is going to be prescient for Buxton's. I have no remorse for the owners. They've gotten away with this for too long.

I'm honestly surprised how many people aren't on the player's side.
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#17 Kelly Vance

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Posted 28 October 2019 - 11:47 AM

Im tired of the catty comments that Buxton didn't deserve a call up, like he was some AAA player trying to break through.He was all world defensive center fielder.The Ozzie Smith of outfielders. He makes miraculous catches often.To say he isn't our starting CF whenever he is healthy is absolute bull. He was voted the best defensive player in all of baseball, at any position. His defense alone justified the call up.And his hitting had improved post wrist injury .365, even in AAA and even in a small sample size is not nothing.We had guys on the roster hitting way lower than that.

 

My suggestion was to tell him what we lose by calling him up, and saying we're gonna do it anyway. Because you are family.And we want to extend you 5 years. Whaddaya say Buck?

 

Even in today's me first climate, players want to be respected and appreciated.I think he'd have signed an extension if handled right. 

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#18 IndianaTwin

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Posted 28 October 2019 - 11:52 AM

 

... which is starting to sound like believing in the Easter bunny .... Everytime you think you see him, he hops into the hedge (shoulder first).

 

Buxton isn't going to have the case that Bryant does. His injury history printout probably weighs as much as the title for Johnny Cash's Psychobilly Cadillac. It's way to much to point to as legitimate reason for not calling him up.  

 

Tony Clark just can't be reached, so you get what we've had here the last several years which is the way Tony wants it. Well, he gets it. And I don't like it any more than you (wo)men.

 

Let's hope his career can still come together one piece at a time...

 

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#19 IndianaTwin

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Posted 28 October 2019 - 12:49 PM

 

... which is starting to sound like believing in the Easter bunny .... Everytime you think you see him, he hops into the hedge (shoulder first).

 

Buxton isn't going to have the case that Bryant does. His injury history printout probably weighs as much as the title for Johnny Cash's Psychobilly Cadillac. It's way to much to point to as legitimate reason for not calling him up.  

 

Tony Clark just can't be reached, so you get what we've had here the last several years which is the way Tony wants it. Well, he gets it. And I don't like it any more than you (wo)men.

 

Guess what song just played on the oldies station I'm listening to...

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#20 mikelink45

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Posted 28 October 2019 - 01:37 PM

I am not sold on Buxton, in fact I am willing to accept the label of being the least enamored of TD readers, but this is not about the player and in the economics of the game I am sympathetic to Buxton's case against the team.I was so blatant. 

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