The Minnesota Twins have had a strange season in 2018. Unfortunately, that doesn’t compare to the nightmare season their center fielder, Byron Buxton, has gone through so far. A myriad of injuries and struggles at the plate have made the Twins front office of CBO Derek Falvey and GM Thad Levine decide to not have Byron Buxton be a part of their September call-ups so his season will end tomorrow when the AAA Rochester Red Wings season ends.
The GM gave us three reasons why they made this decision:
- A wrist injury that is “still lingering”
- On-field performance that goes beyond his raw statistics in the minors
- A lack of playing time for him in the majors.
You can probably add a 4th reason, which is that Byron Buxton is only 13 days away from accruing his 3rd year of Major League service. This means the Twins would gain another year of service and Buxton wouldn’t hit Free Agency until the year 2022.
Everyone is up in arms about this because Buxton is supposed to be the Twins center fielder for the next 5-10 years and the reasoning behind it is somewhat questionable. If Byron’s wrist injury is still lingering, why is he playing at AAA and if he’s playing with it at AAA, why couldn’t he play with it with the Twins, too? His on-field performance might have been affected by the injuries he's had through the season. A lack of playing time? So, they’d rather give at-bats to Jake Cave, Robbie Grossman (Jake & the Gross Man?) & Johnny Field? Jake Cave is understandable because I’m sure they’d like to see if he can be a part of their future although Eddie Rosario & Max Kepler are already in the outfield and it’s hard to believe they want to replace either of them. Robbie Grossman & Johnny Field, on the other hand, are two players that you would assume Buxton should easily get at-bats over.
Byron Buxton needs at-bats at the major league level to get better with the bat and, hopefully, reach the high potential that has been put on him. It looks like he’s figured out AAA:
Byron Buxton Career at AAA(Over 4 Seasons)
100 429 393 77 122 25 5 18 49 13 2 28 115.310/.364/.537
35 148 136 22 37 11 1 4 14 4 1 9 42 .272/.331/.456
Those are pretty good stats over his career and this season’s aren’t terrible except for the strikeouts. The strikeouts stick out especially for a guy who can steal 2nd with relative ease if he can reach first base. Now, with only 100 games played in AAA over 4 seasons and 49 games being the high mark for most AAA games played in one season, it is kind of difficult to say he’s mastered that level but he also has a very good stretch of production in the majors on his resume from the 2nd half of 2017.
All of this being said, maybe we should evaluate this decision like we should evaluate trades, give it some time and see if it’s the right call or not in a few years.
We’ve focused on the fans perspective of the front office making a mistake with this decision. Let’s look at it from their point of view, now. Last week, Derek Falvey said the Twins will be "taking the long-term view about our players...Any player we bring up, we're thinking about what's the benefit to the September experience -- whether it's hitting, pitching, defense or an opportunity that's here in terms of at-bats and playing time. … Our focus should exclusively be what we think is the best for Byron long term, and that's where it's going to be."
Byron Buxton has had a nightmare season. Look at everything he’s gone through so far this season:
- Hit .195/.233/.244 (AVG/OBP/SLG) in the season’s first 12 games
- April 13th - Came down with migraine headaches when the team went to Puerto Rico
- April 22nd - Sent on a 1-game rehab assignment with the Fort Myers Miracle, fouls a ball off his big toe, breaking it
- May 10th - Missed 20 games - Activated from the Disabled List (DL) but played through the pain of his broken toe - hits .122/.140/.163 in 17 games (17 strikeouts)
- May 30th - Placed back on the DL to let the broken big toe heal
- June 19th - Sent to AAA on a rehab assignment
- July 2nd - Activated off DL/Optioned to AAA
- July 12th - Injures wrist on a check swing - Left wrist strain
- Hit .224/.298/.355 in 20 games at AAA
[*]July 14th - Placed on AAA DL retroactive to July 13th
[*]July 27th - Activated off DL
[*]August 1st - Placed back on DL after left wrist soreness comes back
[*]Hit .143/.250/.571 in 3 games at AAA (8 PAs 2 Rs 1 H 1 HR 1 RBI 1 BB 5 K)
[*]Has hit .385/.400/.596 in the 12 games since
- (19-for-52-12 Rs 19 Hs 7 2Bs 1 3B 1 HR 7 RBI 1 BB & 13 K)
[*]August 14th - Activated off DL
- Hit .224/.298/.355 in 20 games at AAA
WOW! Now, look at all of that and put yourself in the shoes of the person in charge. Do you shut him down and end Byron’s season so nothing else happens to him this season? Do you think, “If we shut him down now, we get another season from him in 2022 and we can consider 2018 almost a throwaway/redshirt type of season?”
It’s easy for fans and bloggers to look at the stats since Byron was activated on August 14th and say it looks like he’s finally turning things around with the bat but we’re just looking at the stats. We’re not seeing those at-bats. The front office is getting reports from the AAA Coaching Staff on how those at-bats are going? Is Byron taking good at-bats? Are they worried about how he’s dealing with everything that’s happened this season? Is he trying too hard to be productive?
We’ll leave you with this. This decision wasn’t made on a whim. The front office knows what kind of talent Byron Buxton possesses both defensively and offensively. In the end, they think this is what’s best for Byron Buxton. Yes, that might also help the big club because they get another year of control out of it but, if Byron Buxton turns his career around in the next 1-3 seasons, is that extra year of control going to matter? Or, will the front office give him an extension and buy out those free agent years?
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