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What a Byron Buxton Contract Extension Would Look Like


Byron Buxton is the Twins’ most entertaining, high-upside player. He’s slated to become a free agent after the 2022 season. What would a contract extension to keep him around beyond that year look like? We do have some relevant precedents to consider.Buxton, 27, is as tough a player to compare to any other as can be found in the modern game. He has all of the individual tools to be one of the game’s dozen best players, but has never assembled and demonstrated them all in conjunction over a full season. Moreover, and relatedly, he’s suffered numerous injuries, which have both slowed his development and made him an impossible player upon whom to rely on an everyday basis.

 

The tantalizing upside of Buxton isn’t something for which the Twins can afford to pay — not because they don’t have enough money to do so, or because he’d be too unwilling to give it up, but because the odds that he will fully realize it are far too long. Any extension for Buxton has to be built around the player he has been to this point in his career, with the understanding that he might not have yet reached his peak and that extending him beyond his term of team control involves the team acknowledging its faith in him and investing in some measure of that upside.

 

Outfielders who attain four-plus years of big-league service rarely sign extensions to take them past their organic free-agent period. Over the last decade, only 16 such players have signed multiyear deals, according to MLB Trade Rumors’s Extension Tracker. Of those, all but a small handful were two-year deals that gave the team cost certainty and the player insurance against a down year, but which didn’t extend the term of team control. Two exceptions offer us a glimpse of a possible Buxton deal’s structure.

 

In March 2012, the Royals signed left fielder Alex Gordon to an extension covering four seasons, plus a player option for 2016. The deal guaranteed Gordon as much as $50 million, if he exercised the option, or $37.5 million, if he opted for free agency after 2015. (He did so, and re-signed with the team for $72 million over four years.) Gordon and the Royals had previously agreed to a one-year deal for 2012 at just under $4.8 million, but the new deal paid him $6 million for that season, with salary increases in each subsequent year.

 

Like Buxton, Gordon was a former second overall pick who took an unusually long time to establish himself as a good player in the big leagues. It was only in the 2011 season, just prior to signing the extension, that he emerged as a full-fledged star. He was considerably better than Buxton in that platform season, with a very broad base of skills (excellent defense, albeit in left field; power; speed; and plate discipline). However, he was also a year older, and got nearly 700 plate appearances in the year that so impressed his team. Buxton had any such opportunity stolen from him in 2020, not only by continued injury trouble, but by the pandemic.

 

Gordon’s similar prospect pedigree and obvious potential make him a fair comp for Buxton, but that deal was so long ago (and the apparent certitude of his future production so much higher) that it’s an imperfect template for a Buxton extension. Our other precedent is much more recent, and shares Buxton’s profile more closely: an extremely athletic, very young, tooled-up center fielder, but with red flags attached to their scouting report when it comes to both plate approach and durability.

 

During the rush of extensions signed in the spring of 2019, the Blue Jays elected to lock up their incumbent center fielder, Randal Grichuk. Although not a Buxton-caliber defender in center, Grichuk had acquitted himself as a semi-regular there, and provided plus defense whenever slid to an outfield corner. In 2018, his first season with the Jays, he had set career highs with 58 extra-base hits and 1.9 WARP, despite not even playing enough to qualify for the batting title. He was 26 during that campaign, and 27 when he signed his deal, as Buxton would be if he signed an extension this spring.

 

Grichuk signed a five-year deal guaranteeing him $52 million. It replaced a one-year deal worth $5 million, and provided him with an immediate raise to $7 million, plus signing bonuses paid out mostly in 2019 and 2020. He would have made $12 million in 2020, had the full season been played, but that was the highest-salaried season of the contract. In each of the next three years, he will make $9.3 million.

 

In 2019, Grichuk delivered 31 home runs, but given his strikeout-to-walk ratio and the way balls flew out of big-league parks that year, that wasn’t an especially impressive figure. He has been worth just 0.6 total WARP since the start of 2019, thanks in part to defensive collapse. At this point, his deal is viewed as moderately bad money, but given the structure of the contract, he’s not a huge burden on the Jays, and he will probably still deliver some value as a corner outfielder and down-lineup power bat over the next season or two.

 

Again, Buxton’s speed and defensive chops give him a higher floor than Grichuk has. Then again, his approach is as hacktastic as Grichuk’s, and his injury track record is impossible to ignore. That’s why he and his agents at Jet Sports Management would probably be open to an extension like Grichuk’s. The Twins might even be able to get him to agree to a deal more like Gordon’s, with four seasons and more modest salary guarantees but a player option for his age-31 season, especially if they’re willing to slightly boost his 2021 salary of $5.1 million, the way each of those deals did.

 

Consider one more relevant precedent, in the news within the last 48 hours: Jackie Bradley, Jr. Like Buxton, Bradley spent his 20s as a brilliant defensive center fielder with obvious offensive tools, but never consistently produced at an above-average level at the plate. Upon reaching free agency (and on the eve of his 31st birthday), Bradley was stranded on the open market, having to sign for two years and $24 million three weeks after spring training began. That’s what awaits Buxton if he doesn’t make good on his potential within the next two seasons; he would and should pounce on a handsome offer to avoid that downside. The only question is whether the Twins would be willing to make such an offer.

 

There’s a strong case to be made for doing so. Again, consider the Bradley signing, by the Brewers. He joins an outfield that already featured three established, highly-paid veterans, in Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, and Avisaíl García. Even without the designated hitter spot into which to stick one of those four, the Brewers wanted Bradley, to balance that corps and cover for its weaknesses. Bradley complements Cain and García, who both hit right-handed, and whose bodies and ages suggest a lack of defensive value in the coming season. He also insures the team against further injury trouble for any of the three incumbents, all of whom have had those issues recently.

 

Keeping Buxton around would similarly balance the Twins’ prospective outfield of the future, currently projected to lean to the left (Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Max Kepler). He wouldn’t block the potential emergence of Gilberto Celestino, because Celestino could and would step in when Buxton deals with injuries or prolonged offensive slumps, as well as spelling the steadier corner outfielders. Given everything Buxton can do on the diamond, and the potential for a true superstar turn, the Twins should be willing to risk carrying him as a semi-regular making an eight-figure salary into the middle of the decade. Buxton should be eager to accept that small infringement on his earning potential, given the security and upside he would gain in the process.

 

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It won't be cheap to extend him but if they don't do it now, as in this year, it won't get done.  Once he is one year away he'll take his chances with the Market.  He has game changing tools with the bat and injuries being the only things holding him back.  I think they should try and get a couple more years out of him but maybe the Twins are OK letting him go and pivoting to Celestino hard to say.  They can only pay so many players big money so they will carefully pick and choose where to spend it.  I hope they extend but I wouldn't be surprised if they declined as well.

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The Twins will need to make some difficult decisions in the next couple of years deciding who they can afford to keep, or trade to get some value before they leave. I think Buxton will be in the latter category. 

His skill set that makes him so dangerous right now (speed, defensive chops) likely won't continue into his 30's, and the bat has never been good enough to increase his value. 

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The Twins will need to make some difficult decisions in the next couple of years deciding who they can afford to keep, or trade to get some value before they leave. I think Buxton will be in the latter category. 

His skill set that makes him so dangerous right now (speed, defensive chops) likely won't continue into his 30's, and the bat has never been good enough to increase his value. 

Yea, but Buxton isn't just fast.  He's FAST.  Even is he slows down, he's still gonna be one of the fastest players in the MLB.  He's a tantalizing player and I wouldn't hate giving him a 5 yr/ 50 million dollar deal.  Best case is a 5+ WAR player on a hell of a deal and worst case is an overpaid fourth outfielder who can field and steal bases better then any other OF on your team.

 

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Creative contract with incentives that allow him to be one of the highest paid players if his time on the field and performance dictate it. Have it be fair and attractive if he can't or doesn't. It really is too bad that not all players are paid their value each year, and are not ripping the team off when they don't. In a more perfect world........

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I know the comparison isn't perfect as far as years of control remaining but Aaron Hick's 7/70M extension in 2019 before his last year of arbitration that year seems like a good comp giving their injury history, prospect pedigree, and defensive abilities. 

That is likely too long of a commitment from the Twins' perspective but if they can reduce the guarantees in the contract by upping the incentives for things relating to games played given Buxton's lengthy injury history that may be a fair compromise for both sides. 

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Buxton's non-availability wouldn't be such a big deal if the Twins actually planned for it. That's a very difficult thing to do, and it's costly, so I'm not sure it's possible, but think about it. The Twins have Kepler, Kirilloff, and Larnach. They can get a good OFer vs lhp. Signing Buxton for 4 yrs, 50 million makes a lot of sense. Kirilloff has flexibility with 1B. Basically, instead of 10 very good offensive players (like now with the super-utility but minus a second top catcher) they would be carrying 11 (four very good OF, one with flexibility to play CF, one 1B, and your normal infield with an Arraez type).

 

Instead of counting on Buxton, you pay for his upside and are ready when he goes down. I just don't know how much you're willing to pay and what Buxton will accept. I do know that when it kicks in Sano, Donaldson, and Cruz will be gone, and pretty much everyone else will be cheap, with the exception of some free agents they might pick up.

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He’s not cutting the Twins any deals after screwing him and messing with his service time a couple years back. He was very upset, and I’m guessing he’ll never forget that.

 

I wouldn’t be surprised if he just wanted out of here, and will refuse any sort of contract negotiations unless the Twins drastically overpay.

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I would rather extend or resign Berrios. However, it is possible we could develop enough pitching over the next couple years to cover up his departure. CF is much more questionable. Celestino is our only real hope so his ascension would be crucial. We could possibly afford both if we develop enough pitching and Lewis becomes the SS we all hope he can be. Trading Sano in a year or two would also facilitate keeping both.

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Can a team like the Twins afford a gamble on an injury prone player like Bux? He has always reminded me of Eric Davis from the Reds and the career is very similar, but Davis did put together some healthy monster seasons. But his injuries caught up to him and his career ended prematurely. A 5 year $65m will not hurt the Twins long term, but is it enough for Bux and his agent.

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He’s not cutting the Twins any deals after screwing him and messing with his service time a couple years back. He was very upset, and I’m guessing he’ll never forget that.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he just wanted out of here, and will refuse any sort of contract negotiations unless the Twins drastically overpay.

This may possibly be true.  However, if Buxton was honest with himself he would also realize that he should  never have accumulated 2 years of service time while hitting 0.209 in 2015 and 0.225 in 2016.   The only reason he was accumulating MLB service time during this period was the Aaron Hicks for John Ryan Murphy trade.

 

Over this time period the Twins position players with a K% greater than Buxton's are Darin Mastronianni and Miguel Sano and Buxton was marginally better than Oswaldo Arcia.

 

Position players with a batting average worse than Byron Buxton are:  Darin Mastroianni, Chris Herrmann, John Ryan Murphy, Byung-ho Park, Doug Bernier, Jordan Schafer.

 

2015 to 2016 OBP.  Position players worse than Byron Buxton are:  Darin Mastroianni, John Ryan Murphy, Chris Herrmann,  Jordan Schafer, Danny Santana, James Beresford.

 

OPS.  2015-2016. Position players worse than Byron Buxton are:  Darin Mastroinni, John Ryan Murphy, Chris Herrmann, Jordan Schafer, James Beresford, Danny Santana, Shane Robinson, Kurt Suzuki, and Logan Schafer.

 

I hope Byron Buxton does well as I would like the Twins to win another World Series before I die.  I would not consider extending Byron Buxton unless he demonstrates that he can stay on the field.  It is very difficult to build a team around a player who can not be relied upon.  Currently the Twins have Josh Donaldson and Byron Buxton for whom they must prioritize contingency plans.

 

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If Buxton played 145-150 games each year the value would be there. 

The trouble is,   he doesn't play enough.  

And here's another thing to consider:

Despite Buxton's SPEED it's virtually a non-factor offensively.

Either Rocco won't let him run,   or Buxton just doesn't run enough.

He's a guy who should easily reach 40-50 SB's...yet he's never come close.

What Buxton's approach at the plate:  He's fallen in love with HR's.  There's nothing wrong with hitting HR's mind you, but that doesn't exactly use his tremendous speed to its full advantage.

I would offer 5-years and $50 million.  He's certainly valuable as a RH hitter in an overwhelmingly LH hitting outfield.  And his defense is elite.    But if he only plays 80-120 games a year (which is highly likely) 5-years and $50 million is the BEST he can do.

I agree, I'd rather lock Berrios up before worrying about our oft-injured CF'er.

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Yeah, the Twins are in a no-win situation with Buxton here. They can't afford to extend him based on his potential, because they've continuously felt like they've been burned by his injuries and prolonged slumps. Buxton, on the other hand, won't accept a deal based on what he's worth, simply because there's a line of MLB teams with deep pockets who WILL pay him based on his potential.

 

Throw in that season a few years ago where the Twins demoted him and refused to call him up in September ( think that's always left a bad taste in Byron's mouth) AND the fact that this team hasn't won a playoff game in forever, and I think it's almost certain he'll leave this team after 2022. 

 

As fans, it's going to be hard because we'll always want him to do well, but if he breaks out of his mold between ages 30-34 and wins an MVP Award - which is not out of the realm of possibility in my opinion - we'll feel burned.

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I agree with the sentiment that these young players bet on themselves, and I thought Sano would but I think he signed 3/30. I think Buxton is pretty similar in risk, higher reward. I agree with those saying 4 or 5 for 50-60.

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This may possibly be true.  However, if Buxton was honest with himself he would also realize that he should  never have accumulated 2 years of service time while hitting 0.209 in 2015 and 0.225 in 2016.   The only reason he was accumulating MLB service time during this period was the Aaron Hicks for John Ryan Murphy trade.

Technically, Hicks wasn't traded until after 2015, after Buxton already started accumulating service time (and he didn't get 2 full service time years for 2015-2016 -- more like 1 and 1/3 year).

 

And the absence of Hicks wasn't the only reason Buxton was getting a chance in MLB in 2016 -- here's what Buxton did in the upper minors those two seasons:

 

2015: .305/.367/.500, .867 OPS in 327 PA

2016: .305/.359/.568, .927 OPS in 209 PA

 

He was by no means a finished product, but it was probably enough to earn the MLB roster time that he received at the time.

 

Also, batting average is misleading -- while Buxton was hardly a world-beater in 2016, he paired that low average with enough power to manage a 90 OPS+ -- pretty close to league average offense overall, before factoring in his defense and baserunning.

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I am not buying his potential.  Sorry.  I have seen too much.  The guy has played in more than 92 games one time in his whole career and speed guys have a pretty small window.

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Sign Buxton now. He just turned 27 years old. His game isn't based only on speed. The past two seasons, his isolated power (SLG-AVG) was .274. That would've ranked 11th in the majors if he could've stayed on the field.  

 

Of course, staying on the field is his biggest problem. In 2021, he played 39 of the first 53 games. He missed 10 days with an injured shoulder. He missed the last 7 games because he got hit in the head. Still, He was:

  • The second-most valuable position player on the Twins by fWAR and the most valuable by rWAR.
  • The leading CF in the major leagues by Defensive Runs Saved (DRS).

He's a difference maker.

 

I bet he reaches 400+ PA per year across the next 4 seasons. That's enough to make him a top 50 player in MLB, at a premium position. BTW, the other top defensive CF the past two years? Lorenzo Cain (34 yrs old) and Kevin Keirmaier (30 yrs old). Buxton will play CF for several more years.

 

Offer him 4/$52M or 5/$68M. Give him a $3M bonus this year, then $12M and 2 or 3 years @$16M. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yea, but Buxton isn't just fast.  He's FAST.  Even is he slows down, he's still gonna be one of the fastest players in the MLB.  He's a tantalizing player and I wouldn't hate giving him a 5 yr/ 50 million dollar deal.  Best case is a 5+ WAR player on a hell of a deal and worst case is an overpaid fourth outfielder who can field and steal bases better then any other OF on your team.

 

He won't get signed for 10M.  If this happens it will have to be 12-13M at minimum given what Jackie Bradley got.  I'm guessing it'll actually have to be closer to 15M.

 

15M for a backup OF is not a terribly good use of resources.  Van is right that his speed is going to wane and right now almost all of his defensive and offensive value is tied up in that.  Couple that with the fact that age is rarely kind to durability and we have a problem.  His body is in the prime of his life and he still can't stay on the field.  That isn't going to get better.

 

I can talk myself into the gamble because the talent is obvious, but we need to walk into it eyes wide open.  He is a bit of a reckless player, the upside might be worth it, but the downside is seriously real.

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He won't get signed for 10M.  If this happens it will have to be 12-13M at minimum given what Jackie Bradley got.  I'm guessing it'll actually have to be closer to 15M.

 

15M for a backup OF is not a terribly good use of resources.  Van is right that his speed is going to wane and right now almost all of his defensive and offensive value is tied up in that.  Couple that with the fact that age is rarely kind to durability and we have a problem.  His body is in the prime of his life and he still can't stay on the field.  That isn't going to get better.

 

I can talk myself into the gamble because the talent is obvious, but we need to walk into it eyes wide open.  He is a bit of a reckless player, the upside might be worth it, but the downside is seriously real.

I am less concerned than some about Buxton's speed. I expect he'll still be a fine defender when he's much older and is not even major-league average fast, because his reputation is for getting a good read on the ball. Wasn't Celestino just quoted as saying he picks Buxton's brain about that?

 

As for his proneness to missing time, I am more concerned than some where it comes to things he may not be able to protect against. Lacking first-hand knowledge, I am guessing that there is a correlation between his migraines and the periods of time when he seems unable to lay off low breaking pitches. Vision is a tricky thing. I'm not sure he can be more careful, in the usual sense we mean of getting hurt.

 

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He won't get signed for 10M.  If this happens it will have to be 12-13M at minimum given what Jackie Bradley got.  I'm guessing it'll actually have to be closer to 15M.

 

15M for a backup OF is not a terribly good use of resources.  Van is right that his speed is going to wane and right now almost all of his defensive and offensive value is tied up in that.  Couple that with the fact that age is rarely kind to durability and we have a problem.  His body is in the prime of his life and he still can't stay on the field.  That isn't going to get better.

 

I can talk myself into the gamble because the talent is obvious, but we need to walk into it eyes wide open.  He is a bit of a reckless player, the upside might be worth it, but the downside is seriously real.

I'm curious how many here would sign Buxton to a 4yr/60 MM deal.  I realize we aren't GM's, but the crowd wisdom is generally not widely far off the mark.

 

Maybe somebody does it, but I can't see many teams seeing such an injury prone player as a valuable buy @ 15 MM AAV.

 

I'd do 5/50, but I couldn't convince myself to pull the trigger on 4/60.

Edited by RedBull34
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I am less concerned than some about Buxton's speed. I expect he'll still be a fine defender when he's much older and is not even major-league average fast, because his reputation is for getting a good read on the ball. Wasn't Celestino just quoted as saying he picks Buxton's brain about that?

 

As for his proneness to missing time, I am more concerned than some where it comes to things he may not be able to protect against. Lacking first-hand knowledge, I am guessing that there is a correlation between his migraines and the periods of time when he seems unable to lay off low breaking pitches. Vision is a tricky thing. I'm not sure he can be more careful, in the usual sense we mean of getting hurt.
 

 

I think there is too much speculation here.  Yes, he seems to be really good at reading the ball, but it's hard to know how good that skill is independent of his speed for obvious reasons.  We've seen a lot of other speedy players decline markedly after their speed goes from elite to just "good".  Perhaps Byron is an exception, but that isn't the sort of thing you bet extensions on.

 

I don't feel comfortable with any speculation on vision/migraines/concussions either.  That can effect people so differently.  I'd accept just having him take a bit more care not to freight train any OF walls.  That sort of thing at age 31 isn't the same as 25.

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I'm curious how many here would sign Buxton to a 4yr/60 MM deal.  I realize we aren't GM's, but the crowd wisdom is generally not widely far off the mark.

 

Maybe somebody does it, but I can't see many teams seeing such an injury prone player as a valuable buy @ 15 MM AAV.

 

I'd do 5/50, but I couldn't convince myself to pull the trigger on 4/60.

 

I think these are good talking point benchmarks.  I could do 5/50.  I'd do 5/60 for the chance at lightning in a bottle.  But past that you start to lose me in the risk vs. reward.

 

Jackie Bradley Jr. is an informative comp for him.  A player with no durability issues, but otherwise similarly up and down offensive profile with good defense.  Dude got 12M in a year where the pandemic wrecked FA.  I think we've come to a point where clubs are paying a premium for defense.  I'm not sure we can get his name inked on a contract for less than 15 AAV.

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I think these are good talking point benchmarks.  I could do 5/50.  I'd do 5/60 for the chance at lightning in a bottle.  But past that you start to lose me in the risk vs. reward.

 

Jackie Bradley Jr. is an informative comp for him.  A player with no durability issues, but otherwise similarly up and down offensive profile with good defense.  Dude got 12M in a year where the pandemic wrecked FA.  I think we've come to a point where clubs are paying a premium for defense.  I'm not sure we can get his name inked on a contract for less than 15 AAV.

 

Keep in mind, Bradley was a free agent, while Buxton is still on arb salaries this year and next. If the deal included/replaced/restructured Buxton's $5.13 mil salary this year, and did the same for a forecasted ~$9 mil arb award for next year, that would pull down the AAV a bit.

 

Also, it's debatable how much the pandemic really affected this winter's FA market overall. In Bradley's case, ZiPS projects him at 1.5 fWAR for 2021, his age-31 season, so I think a 2/24 contract ($8 mil per win) would have been appropriate for him in any recent offseason. MLBTR had only pegged him at 2/16 at the beginning of the offseason. Actually, looking over MLBTR's top 50 FA, the contracts look pretty normal:

 

https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2020/11/mlb-free-agent-predictions-2021.html

 

I think the pandemic's affect on the FA market was maybe a bit more targeted/limited -- for example, guys who mostly skipped/missed the 2020 season, like Stroman and Odorizzi.

 

Edit to add: all that said, Buxton is better than Bradley. Buxton's ZiPS forecast is 2.7 fWAR this year in only 397 PA. And while his first FA year carries some uncertainty, being 2 years out still, it will only be his age-29 season, as compared to age-31 for Bradley this year. That should mean Buxton can ask for a higher salary in his FA years, or just give Buxton more incentive to wait and test the open market.

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