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As Buxton Hope Fades, Front Office Goes


Ted Schwerzler

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Byron Buxton is quite arguably the most talented player in Minnesota Twins history. His athleticism is unmatched, and his production is unparalleled. Then there’s the caveat, when healthy.

With the hometown nine looking at the doldrums of the division, and the 2021 Major League Baseball trade deadline looming, plenty of storms are brewing on the roster construction front. One of the most reported is that of Minnesota’s failed attempts at a contract extension with their star centerfielder.

Currently shelved after being hit by a pitch, Buxton had rebuffed the latest seven-year, $80 million pact that would add addition earning opportunity through incentives. That deal was just a $7 million increase over the previous offer, and still nearly $20 million shy of where this front office paid another oft-injured 3rd basemen (who is five years older) just two seasons ago.

The refrain regarding Buxton’s availability is a common one, he has been shelved often throughout his career. The reality though, is that it is through the injury history where the Twins find themselves offered grace. Because he’s been unavailable, Buxton’s $200 million or more payday is not going to happen. He would command plenty on the open market with more competition bidding on his services, but it’s the Twins who have the table and the realistic opportunity because of how his career has played out.

Coming into 2021 the team was expected to be good. Unfortunately, the front office has watched each of its offseason acquisitions tie together career-worst seasons, as well as regression from plenty of holdover talents. Unless there’s an admittance of poor talent assessment virtually across the whole roster, then there should be reason to look at this season as an outlier.

2022 represents an opportunity to reload. If the core of this club was seen as competitive before, and that’s been proven through their track record of winning, an alteration of that belief shouldn’t be so swift. To suggest there’s an attempt at competing in the year ahead while dealing the team’s best player would be hollow at best.

Certainly, both Jose Berrios and Buxton should command a haul when it comes to prospect capital in exchange for their services. The volatility of those players will always be high however, and you’d need at least two reaching something like the 95th percentile of their hopefully outcomes to feel good about what you gave up. Berrios would love a gaping hole in an already poor rotation, and Buxton’s presence would be missed on a nightly basis.

Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have put in an infrastructure of sustainability and competitiveness. They should be commended for that. Bailing on that process at the Major League level rather than supplementing what they have fostered would be a hard pill to swallow, and one worthy of substantial criticism.

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz

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Pretty good assessment after the first paragraph.  As for the first paragraph.......hmm, how to be polite.  :)  As good as Buxton is, yes, when healthy, he is not on the same planet as Rod Carew if you want to go into Twins history.  Not only did Rod have the tools, he used them.  He could turn a walk into a run better than anyone in the game.  Buxton refuses to use his speed to the degree he not only could, but should, anywhere but in the field.  He will not bunt, and steals sparingly (as in he could steal 3rd and even home far more often).  In his own words, he is "looking to drive the ball", not worry about his average, even though a higher average would put him on base more, putting him in a position to do more with his speed.  His athleticism may or may not be unmatched, but his production is far from unparalleled (no, production is not on a per game basis, it is season to season).  You have to be on the field to produce; no one has yet to produce from the trainers room.  

Don't get me wrong; as I said, a good assessment from the 2nd paragraph down, but he has started more than 88 games only once in his career and until he does consistently, year in and year out, the jury will remain out.  Doesn't mean I wouldn't sign him, but not for the money he thinks he is worth.  Not yet, anyway.

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Agreed, on all counts.  I think these guys - Falvey, Levine, and Baldelli - are all smart, knowledgeable baseball minds.  Yet they make an offer to Buxton that is, even with a "don't take it personally" attitude, close to, if not over the line, insulting.  Of course we don't know the incentives, but still, $80  million (11 mil/year) guaranteed is insufficient.  Make a reasonable offer and then let the chips fall where they may, but don't lose Buxton without even entering the sweepstakes.

 

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He is surely the fastest player we have ever had and he is certainly in the top 3 of all time centerfielders along with Kirby and Hunter...BUT, it was not that long ago that Buck couldn't consistently get hits, where he struck out and popped up. While it's true he has turned a corner, we can't possibly know his true value. or any players true value, unless they can play well at this level for a full season. This is not the year for Buck to be demanding a lot of money. The reason we paid JD what we did was because we were supposed to win our division and get to the playoffs in 2021. Don't get me wrong, it killed me to see Cruz go and it would kill me to see Buck go and be Superman for the competition...but at this point, I think we have all gotten accustomed to not having him our team because he hasn't been around. I agree that the ownership should not start tearing down what they only just built, but things did not work out like they planned this season.

Buck aside, I think this team was woefully mismanaged by Rocco and his gang.  From poor conditioning and injuries to horrible pitching decisions...leave them in too long, taken them out too soon, bring in the wrong reliever and then keep him in until the game is lost, etc, etc.  Sano? really? Zero baseball IQ.

There is plenty of blame to go around, but it started at the top. There is way too much  talent on this team for them to be where they are...that is a team that is mismanaged. 

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I agree that Buxton is good.  However he is not great.  He is a career, yes did you see that, career ..247 hitter.  Don't even think of putting in with Carew and Puckett. Buxton was flailing away at the plate not too unlike Sano just very recently.  I like him and hope he stays but he hasn't proven much of anything yet except how to miss 63% of his teams games the past 4 years.  Don't compare to Donaldson big contract.  Yes he's older and has had some injuries but he has a very good and productive background.  Buxton does not.  Find a way to sign him but let's be reasonable and realistic.

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If Buxton is sure he can make a lot more $$$ down the line, and the Twins FO can't count on him staying on the field for more than 70-80 games a year, why not shorten the # of years being offered? Instead of $80 mil for 7 years, how about $80 mil (with incentives for games played) for 5 years? If he's constantly injured, the Twins don't have him on the books after 2026. If he's health, he more than earns his money and is still young enough to go get another big contract elsewhere at age 32. 

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I do wish there would be some let-up on the constant criticism of Buxton's injury history.  For example, the reason he is currently on the IL - a broken hand when hit by a pitch.  Now, would any other player be criticized for being too fragile for an injury like that?  Maybe Donaldson, but for anyone else that would just be bad luck or timing.  But no, because its Buxton, he's fragile.  Or his crashes into the wall - if he doesn't try to catch those, then he's criticized for not trying.  I am not trying to minimize the frequency of these injuries, but if he wasn't so "fragile", he would be criticized for being "soft"   

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The Twins have already made an overly generous offer. He is a career .247 hitter and his yearly war is just 3.0. They offered him more than the Yanks gave Hicks. Berríos apparently wants $25M per year. Was nothing learned from the Mauer contract?

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41 minutes ago, LanceJS said:

I do wish there would be some let-up on the constant criticism of Buxton's injury history.  For example, the reason he is currently on the IL - a broken hand when hit by a pitch.  Now, would any other player be criticized for being too fragile for an injury like that?  Maybe Donaldson, but for anyone else that would just be bad luck or timing.  But no, because its Buxton, he's fragile.  Or his crashes into the wall - if he doesn't try to catch those, then he's criticized for not trying.  I am not trying to minimize the frequency of these injuries, but if he wasn't so "fragile", he would be criticized for being "soft"   

I get where you're coming from, but as Forrest Gump would say, fragile is as fragile does......in a nutshell, he appears to be fragile.  Twice in recent seasons he has gotten hurt simply running (Forrest never did :) ); not by crashing into walls, diving for balls, or sliding into bases, just by running.  And I have to admit, I am one of the folks who wonder how many other players would have broken a bone getting hit by that pitch, or is he just fragile?  There are only so many flukish injuries the same athlete can get before a pattern sets in.  And, yes, JD injures himself just running as well, but he isn't in his mid 20's anymore.  I guess my point is I don't know if folks are criticizing so much, as they are lamenting his history and wondering, because of said history, if he is worth anywhere near as much as he thinks he is.

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Byron Buxton is the reason to go watch a game, he is worth the price of admission. Whether it is running down a ball in the outfield or hitting a triple or stealing a base. He can change the game on both sides of the ball, we don't or probably won't ever have that type of talent again. Pay him and pray he stays healthy for 120 games. Plus I don't think we will get a great offer after this year.

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5 hours ago, beterday said:

Agreed, on all counts.  I think these guys - Falvey, Levine, and Baldelli - are all smart, knowledgeable baseball minds.  Yet they make an offer to Buxton that is, even with a "don't take it personally" attitude, close to, if not over the line, insulting.  Of course we don't know the incentives, but still, $80  million (11 mil/year) guaranteed is insufficient.  Make a reasonable offer and then let the chips fall where they may, but don't lose Buxton without even entering the sweepstakes.

 

I'm hearing this opinion a lot on the boards, but what we're hearing now is that it wasn't the guaranteed money that was the sticking point on the extension, it was something related to the structure of the incentives. So from a reasonableness perspective, the issue is apparently not the guaranteed money at all.

 

but never let the truth get in the way of calling the Pohlad Family cheap...

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23 minutes ago, jmlease1 said:

I'm hearing this opinion a lot on the boards, but what we're hearing now is that it wasn't the guaranteed money that was the sticking point on the extension, it was something related to the structure of the incentives. So from a reasonableness perspective, the issue is apparently not the guaranteed money at all.

 

but never let the truth get in the way of calling the Pohlad Family cheap...

People see $80M over 7 and fail to read about the creative escalators in the contract.  Did the Twins make those escalators too hard to achieve? Or was the money not high enough for Buxton's agent? We will probably never know, but we will keep hearing that the Twins only offered $80M 

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Normally I would never argue this point, but since this is a debate of whether BB is worth superstar money it is worth examining if he is the superstar we might want to make him out to be.  The things you talk about are, indeed, exciting to watch or even anticipate, but are they common place?  When you look at the numbers, he has 0 triples and 5 stolen bases in 27 games this year.  Looking out to his career, he only has 17 triples and only 67 stolen bases in 459 career games.  Others with speed like his would have 67 stolen bases in one season.   One other stat:  this year in 27 games with 10 home runs, he has only 19 RBI's.......again, with 10 home runs.  Career:  only 191 RBI's for his entire career; never more than 51 in a season.   "He can change the game"......yes, he can.  But does he?  Can and does are not the same, and his stats say he doesn't on a regular basis.  He plays great defense, but does not produce runs on a regular basis.  His runs scored plus RBI's minus home runs stat is only 355 for his entire career.  Even Simmons isn't that far away from that number (pro rating the numbers) and his defense is superb as well, but no one is calling Simmons a superstar.   Again, superstar money for can is not the same as superstar money for does.  Does requires him to be on the field and not in the trainers room.   Until he does, 120 games a year (or more) consistently, I just can't see the superstar money.  But others do, so he will get it somewhere.  I question if that will be here, however. 

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Buxton's presence will not be missed on a nightly basis because he's never played on a nightly basis. Speed first outfielders with a long history of injury issues don't suddenly become more healthy in their 30's. He's not going to be consistently on the field. Frankly I think the Twins offer to him was more than I would've offered. I'd do a shorter higher AAV deal though.

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23 hours ago, Whitey333 said:

I agree that Buxton is good.  However he is not great.  He is a career, yes did you see that, career ..247 hitter.  Don't even think of putting in with Carew and Puckett. Buxton was flailing away at the plate not too unlike Sano just very recently.  I like him and hope he stays but he hasn't proven much of anything yet except how to miss 63% of his teams games the past 4 years.  Don't compare to Donaldson big contract.  Yes he's older and has had some injuries but he has a very good and productive background.  Buxton does not.  Find a way to sign him but let's be reasonable and realistic.

Yep. I'd be willing to bet Donaldson ends up with more career WAR than Buxton. 

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Hard to argue his "athleticism is unmatched",  The part that "his production is unparalleled" even with the caveat "when healthy" is true for a 27 game stretch.  I too hope for more of that production but he should not be mentioned in the same breadth as Kirby Puckett where production is concerned at least not at this point.  Puckett produced a career WAR of 44.9.  Rod Carew produced a career 72 WAR and had a 5 year stretch where he produced 35 WAR.  

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We need to find a way to sign Buxton, you just cannot give up on that much potential.  I know the injury history but Buxton is a real difference maker in the field and at the plate when he plays. He is just too talented to give up on or give away. I might be in the minority opinion on this but I think you have to find common ground and continue to pursue a deal with Buxton. I don't think there is any added pressure to trade him this deadline. We have the offseason and next season to work on this and I don't think the Twins should give up on an extension. 

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…his production is unparalleled…

career .298 OBP and 96 wRC+.  I mean, come on.

He’s a talented player that has recently shown signs IN EXTREMELY SMALL SAMPLES that he could be a very valuable player. But even then, only if he reverses a long term trend of injury and sporadic play. I want him, but I’m not breaking the bank for him.

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This is the part of the article that I don't understand: "Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have put in an infrastructure of sustainability and competitiveness."

How so? They had a great 2019, an okay 2020, and are now again a bottom-5 team in all of MLB. I've watched this team for a long time, and I wouldn't describe them as remotely "competitive."

It's disappointing. I wanted them to do these things, but they haven't. Not yet, at least, and patience is wearing thin.

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Sign him somehow, someway. I’ve watched the twins and listened and followed since 61    Byron Buxton has the highest ceiling of any player in the game. I’d pay to watch him play every day. It would end my 60 year obsession with the Twins if they don’t. Imagine watching him lead another team to a World Series championship couldn’t handle that.

 

 

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Buxton is a career .247 hitter. He has only reached 50 RBI’s ONCE. He has only reached 20 stolen bases ONCE. He has only played 80 games ONCE. He is a LOT closer to Billy Hamilton than Mookie Betts. Despite this, he (and a lot of people on forums) seem to think he’s worth $30-35M per. I just can’t see a 1/4 of the payroll sitting on the bench for over half the year. 

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On 7/27/2021 at 3:12 PM, Sparky55 said:

Byron Buxton is the reason to go watch a game, he is worth the price of admission. Whether it is running down a ball in the outfield or hitting a triple or stealing a base. He can change the game on both sides of the ball, we don't or probably won't ever have that type of talent again. Pay him and pray he stays healthy for 120 games. Plus I don't think we will get a great offer after this year.

All valid points but if we pay him $20 million a year to hit .247 and play in 80 games it's a huge mistake. We don't have enough money to pay him and sign other good athletes. I don't want to cheer Buxton for 80 games and be in the American League Central cellar 20 games behind by June 1st. 

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