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Letting Byron Buxton Walk Will Haunt


Extension talks have fizzled between the Twins and Byron Buxton, and media reports on the matter have a sense of finality to them. It appears Buxton is heading for free agency, if not departing via trade before then.

I adamantly believe this is a mistake that will haunt the franchise for years to come. But it's not too late to reverse course.

In Minnesota baseball lore, David Ortiz is the equivalent of Boston's Bambino, or Wrigleyville's billy goat. The very mention of Big Papi causes a visceral shudder for any Twins fan within earshot, surfacing deep feelings of regret and lament. How differently things might have gone for the Twins had Ortiz stayed in Minnesota. (Aaron Gleeman wrote a fun "what if" article about this last year.)

Naturally, the Ortiz example is invoked any time a promising Twins player departs unduly – the sports fan's equivalent of a PTSD reaction. Lingering fear of a recurrence envelopes us, clouding our judgment. In most cases, this apprehension proves unwarranted. Nonetheless, the Curse of Papi persists.

You all know where I'm going with this: Is Byron Buxton the next David Ortiz??

In some ways, it's a fitting parallel. Ortiz left Minnesota in his late 20s, having shown flashes of standout ability, before immediately blossoming elsewhere. In Boston, he emerged as a perennial MVP contender, postseason legend, and franchise icon. It's all too easy to envision the same path for Buxton, except therein lies the difference: you don't need to imagine it. Buxton already IS that guy. He was the AL Player of the Month in April and has been one of the game's best players on a per-game basis for the last three years. After a long and meandering path, he has finally reached his true potential as a top-shelf elite MLB player. 

Yes, the injuries have remained a constant. But that's exactly why a long-term extension with Buxton would even be attainable right now for a team like the Twins. If not for the implications and associated risk of his health history, he'd likely be eyeing a deal outside of Minnesota's realistic scope. 

It might seem odd when you're talking about offering more than $100 million to a player whose track record is as sparse as Buxton's, but the Twins should theoretically be able to secure a relative bargain here due to the circumstances. 

Alas, the front office seems a tad too ambitious in its hunt for a bargain. The allure of signing Buxton long-term is that he can offer a potential impact on the level of a Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, or Fernando Tatis Jr., but at a fraction of the guaranteed commitment.

That said, the clear value needs to be there for Buxton, who knows his level of ability, and it is evidently not. His camp rejected Minnesota's offer, which reportedly elevated from $73 million to $80 million in guaranteed money with a "unique incentive package." Sounds like those incentives were the sticking point. At this juncture we don't what was proposed or countered, so analyzing the negotiation is murky.

Then again, it's also difficult to fathom what kind of request or suggested terms from Buxton's agent would make the Twins balk to the point they're giving up on an opportunity to secure this generational talent, at the precipice of true superstardom.

A somewhat similar dynamic is at play with José Berríos, who was drafted the same year as Buxton and is also looking ahead to free agency at the end of 2022. One can certainly argue that Berríos is more critical to the Twins' future, given their scarcity of high-quality arms. 

But in a way, he is the antithesis of Buxton: ultra-reliable with a capped ceiling. Berríos has been one of the most durable and consistent pitchers in the game – steadily very good, just short of great, always available. Meanwhile, Buxton has improved every season in a setback-riddled career that's been full of ups and downs. He's just now reaching his full form, displaying game-changing greatness that is almost unparalleled.

Yes, Berríos will be difficult to replace, in that arms like his don't come along often. The Twins certainly haven't proven adept at finding or developing them. But Buxton is irreplaceable in a more absolute sense. Athletes and human beings like him almost NEVER come along. His speed, power, and defense are off-the-charts good. He's one of the most entertaining players I've ever seen. And he's still getting better.

I can see the rationale in moving on from Berríos. He's clearly intent on testing free agency and maximizing his earnings. There will be no discount or bonus-contingent contract in play there. And it's awfully hard for a mid-market team to build balanced contending rosters when paying one of their five starting pitchers $25+ million annually.

Their everyday center fielder, though? One who's proven to be an MVP-caliber talent while on the field? And who won't even be reaching that salary range unless he's staying on the field enough to trigger incentives? 

I'm struggling to understand why the Twins aren't stepping up here. Target Field was ostensibly built for the exact purpose of keeping a player like this. From available evidence, it doesn't seem like the team is making a particularly hearty effort to do what it takes to retain him. Whatever Buxton's side is asking for – $30-plus million in annual achievable salary, an early opt-out clause, lower-than-desired bonus thresholds – none of those should be deal-breakers.  

Maybe there's still a way. Buxton said on Monday "it's not the end," leaving some faint cause for hope. But at this point, the outlook is grim. 

It's true that signing Buxton long-term would entail some risk. But it pales in comparison to the risk of watching him go elsewhere, shake off the snakebitten injury luck, and emerge as a late-blooming legend while Twins fans spend another decade lamenting the one that got away. In this case, it'd be a much less excusable gaffe than releasing David Ortiz. 

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I dare to say this because the risk can't be avoided. But could Buxton be a Puckett kind of face of the franchise? 

His talent and his potential is game breaking. Could he languish in the unfortunate hall of "what Could have been"? Absolutely!  And the Twins could have a burn that lingers for a few years.

But how do you ever "go for it" unless you take a risk once in a while? 

Despite being a frustrated fan, I can easily get why the Twins are trying to play things safe. I mean, realistically,  how can you commit 10% plus of your payroll to a guy you don't even know can be on the field for 100 games or more? But how can you not ignore what he does when on the field and HAVE to believe that bad luck HAS to even out at sometime?

That's the rub.

$15M per with decent, honest incentives for 100 games and then 120 games that raise the annual value to $25M. Toss in an opt out after 4yrs if you need to. If he rejects that, I'm not sure what you are supposed to do at that point.

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This all feels too public. Buxton is struggling with overcoming terrible injury luck this year, and this is a stress he doesn't need. Why have the offer details leaked from the Twins FO? It feels very much like a set-up to make Buxton look like the bad guy for turning down an offer, but this just should not be being discussed publicly right now. Plenty of time in the offseason. It's not like the Twins FO would sell low on him before the 2021 deadline - that would be incredibly unwise.

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I honestly think Pohlad will step in at some point and force a Buxton signing. He says he normally stays out of the baseball business and let Falvine do what they have to do. But Buxton is the face of the franchise, a guy who is an MVP candidate when healthy.  Falvey and Levine seem to try to overthink things when the obvious answer is the right one.  Hopefully, they will be given their orders, sign Buxton and stop screwing around with him.

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25 minutes ago, DocBauer said:

$15M per with decent, honest incentives for 100 games and then 120 games that raise the annual value to $25M. Toss in an opt out after 4yrs if you need to. If he rejects that, I'm not sure what you are supposed to do at that point.

Right. It's definitely not a "blank check" situation, and it's possible Buxton's camp is just totally uninterested in a reasonable accord (I did see La Velle tweet "they think the agent is determined to bring him to free agency"). 

But the reported "improved" offer from the Twins is just so far away from even the parameters you laid out. 

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You're only allowed one or two real bad decisions when trying to build a ballclub. If the Twins whiff on this one, they will have their fanbase riled up and thats not a good optic given that this year's team could lose 90-100 games. Letting the face of the 'revitalized' team walk is no way to build a winner.

Just about everything that has happened to the 2021 Twins has been bad. They never got to field their dream lineup. The pitching staff totally fell apart. Most the hitters were experiencing their worst career year...until a couple of them have tried to salvage their season. And the injuries this year have been brutal.

If they can't figure out how to keep one of the best talents in the game....what good will come of it?

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Target Field was ostensibly built for the exact purpose of keeping a player like this. From available evidence, it doesn't seem like the team is making a particularly hearty effort to do what it takes to retain him.

So we were told. This is a mgmt decision, not FO. Carl P intervened to sign Puck, late, and it cost him more $$ waiting. But Puck took a discount. The Twins way, even with 2 WS rings. The Dome was the excuse in 92. What is now? Mid market BS? TF put Twins on competitive trajectory with payroll...so it was said. 

How many times does an opportunity happen to lock up a generational talent of your making? Once every 30 years apparently in Mn Twins world. Spend the $$ Pohlads. Reap the ROI you committed to drafting and developing- for this chance.  Isnt that the reason for being a MLB franchise? If we wont pay the players we draft and develop, then what is the point?  

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The Byron Buxton negotiations are difficult on every level. The injuries have been very frustrating for fans and especially to Byron and the variety of nuisance setbacks do not exactly indicate long term physical problems. I disagree that Buxton will soon lose his speed and everyone seems pretty united with their descriptions of Buxton's athleticism. The improvements we saw from Byron in April were indicative of a player who has gained experience and feel/ knowledge of how to progress against pitchers. So the missed games are tough. Where and how can the Twins replace Byron Buxton? Does the future include a healthy player (150 games)? Discussions and opinions vary but I'm with those who want the Twins to seriously entice Buxton to sign. We have no real idea of the details of the offered contract but 5/$100 million sounds pretty good for both Buxton and the Twins; very large but manageable and secure as opposed to the 7/$80 million we have heard from various sources. There is still plenty of time to complete the negotiations.

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I think we are negotiating against our own difficult situation more than the rest of the league.  Mike's 3/45 idea seems right for the market so if I'm the Twins I offer 7/91 with easy incentives to double that by PAs.  But I also demand a 4th year opt out as safety against his risks.  The Twins would basically be offering double what anyone else would guarantee for his risk level so I feel like that is a fair compromise.

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How about something outside the box, maybe 3/$66M with performance incentives to trigger each successive year. They just have to agree on the number of years. And maybe after year 5 there could be an opt-out so he can try FA again at age 34. He gets paid handsomely and if he manages to stay healthy and/or perform on the field gets long-term security ($$$). Don't know if the MLBPA would go for a deal like this but I think it could work well for both sides.

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I think he wants to get back to playing and prove he's worth more. Doesn't eliminate all the obvious information about the past struggles. If he really thinks he can stay healthy and thump I don't know why the incentives aren't enough... though of course maybe they were low too. Don't know.

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Couldn't agree more, Nick.

Buxton is a game changer. He should have been signed long ago, but that mistake will only be compounded if they don't get him under contract now, when circumstances offer a unique opportunity. 

How often does a player like this come along?

BTW, we're paying JA Happ $8, Pineda $10. Donaldson $23.

The idea that Buxton will accept, or should accept, $15m guaranteed is lunacy. Much less the laughable offer on the table. 

 

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I heard or saw that Buxton does want to stay here.  He may need to tell his agent that, or the agent is under pressure not to take a discount (by the other agents worried about the view).  If that is the case pay the man a reasonable amount and let's get it done.  Berrios wants to test FA so there is little hope there unless you pay him market value plus.  

Let's end this issue, and maybe Pohlad will have to get involved this winter.

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I've actually flip flopped on this situation.  I wanted the team to focus on Berrios because he was the safer sign.  I still think he is the safer sign, but Buxton is that game changer that the team needs.  That any team needs.  I'm not worried about him being the next David Ortiz, I'm worried about him becoming a healthy Byron Buxton.  When he's on the field, the team is so much better.  These types of players simply don't come around very often.  

I'm with @USAFChief in that expecting Buxton to sign for $15M guaranteed is lunacy.  I like the idea of incentives to trigger a bigger payday.  I can understand why Buxton wouldn't like that, but if he's betting on himself, then a mindset of these being achievable isn't unreasonable.   

What this team can't do is let him walk.  If they can't sign him, they need to trade him.  That's not my preferred option, but it's a lot better than getting a comp pick for him.

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4 hours ago, USAFChief said:

Couldn't agree more, Nick.

Buxton is a game changer. He should have been signed long ago, but that mistake will only be compounded if they don't get him under contract now, when circumstances offer a unique opportunity. 

How often does a player like this come along?

BTW, we're paying JA Happ $8, Pineda $10. Donaldson $23.

The idea that Buxton will accept, or should accept, $15m guaranteed is lunacy. Much less the laughable offer on the table. 

 

Agreed based on these 3, 5/100 plus incentives up to someplace between 125-150 seems like a legit offer.

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Earlier this week you guys had to make a tough move and trade Nelson Cruz, a face of the franchise. With the deadline approaching, have you given any directives to Derek/Thad about your other potential faces of the franchise, José Berríos or Buxton?

No. I don’t give any directives to the front office. I don’t think that anybody wants me to be doing that, (media) or any fan out there or anybody on the team. I don’t do that.

_________________________________________________________________

The above quote by Pohlad when questionned by Dan Hayes of The Athletic capsulizes in a nutshell what is wrong with this franchise.  It would be very simple for Pohlad to tell Falvey : sign this guy!  Period.  But I'm afraid JP, as usual, prefers to sit by the side of the pool rather than make a decision.  This is simply lack of leadership - a trait that has plagued this franchise since the son has taken over.

When Carl tried to contract the Twins and came to a baseball meeting in Chicago, I came down to O'hare with signs protesting this egregious act.  I got in Carl's startled face and chastised him for this travesty.  As the only protestor, I was interviewed by A TV reporter from the the Twin Cities NBC channel.  I'm only relaying this story to implore the Twin's fan base to get off their butts and picket Pohlad's office now.  What do you have to lose, other than the franchise's best player since Puckett? Who knows, maybe JP will shed his lethargy and listen to the fans!  You guys should have a lot to say!!

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I have nothing to add on Buxton.  I can just sit back and read the rumors and anguish, just as I have watched him blossom and then get one injury after another.  I keep making the Pete Reiser comparison.  Pete Reiser   I hope Buxton comes back and stays healthy and gives us good baseball no matter where he is.  I enjoyed watching Big Papi in Boston. 

But the part that still gets me is Berrios.   The short note on him within the article gives him a shrug like he can be sacrificed.  He is the kind of pitcher that we keep wanting the Twins to sign as a FA.  He is so reliable we forget how rare it is for the Twins to have a pitcher of this caliber. 

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7 hours ago, TheLeviathan said:

I think we are negotiating against our own difficult situation more than the rest of the league.  Mike's 3/45 idea seems right for the market so if I'm the Twins I offer 7/91 with easy incentives to double that by PAs.  But I also demand a 4th year opt out as safety against his risks.  The Twins would basically be offering double what anyone else would guarantee for his risk level so I feel like that is a fair compromise.

With the opt out you would be guaranteeing 39M.  I doubt he Buxton's camp see's this as a better offer.  Perhaps more to the point, the sticking point seems to be Buxton wants less incentive more guarantee which is no surprise.  IDK why so many people are assuming he is willing to take a significant amount of incentive component in any offer.  He has played in 37% of games played in the past 4 years.  It's no surprise Buxton and his agent are hoping someone will overlook this fact. 

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4 minutes ago, Major League Ready said:

With the opt out you would be guaranteeing 39M.  I doubt he Buxton's camp see's this as a better offer.  Perhaps more to the point, the sticking point seems to be Buxton wants less incentive more guarantee which is no surprise.  IDK why so many people are assuming he is willing to take a significant amount of incentive component in any offer.  He has played in 37% of games played in the past 4 years.  It's no surprise Buxton and his agent are hoping someone will overlook this fact. 

I'd be guaranteeing 52M.  If Byron Buxton thought he could guarantee himself a lot more than what the Twins are offering.....they wouldn't be actively negotiating around the known offers.  As Hayes implied in his story, the team and Byron agree on large components of the contract the team offered.

That alone should tell people what the actual market might pay.  Turning down close to 100M has a very high risk of being the last time that much money is on the table for him.

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I believe that Buxton is everything everyone says he is. And I believed it when he was struggling in the past. He is one of the players in the game that changes a team when he is on the field. 
 

I don’t believe the assertion that his injury history gives the Twins a chance to sign him on the cheap valid. I doubt a player of Buxtons age, or ability, looks at himself as vulnerable to age or injury. Despite recent history. 
 

I get the uninformed perception that he doesn’t want to stay here. Only he, and people far closer to the situation know if that’s true. If it is, money won’t do it. After that I agree with wsnydes. If you don’t think you can sign him, trade him. Get the best deal out there. Do not keep him through 2022 and maybe get a comp pick. That would simply add to the loss. 

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51 minutes ago, TwinsDr2021 said:

Agreed based on these 3, 5/100 plus incentives up to someplace between 125-150 seems like a legit offer.

I can't think of another player with Buxton's career stats that got $150M or even close?  The best comp is probably Springer last season. He got $150 over 6 years, not 5.  Springers career WAR is 26, Buxton's is 11.1.  Springer's career wRC+ is 135, Buxton's career wRC+ is 96 with a high of 118 with the exception of 110 PAs this season.  Do you have comps or are you coming up with this number out of the blue? 

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Are we really discussing on how Buxton impacts this club ? He hasn’t had a healthy season except for one time.  Given his injuries I would say this will never change.

 

I thought they should of traded him two years ago when he was doing well and I think we should trade him if the return is decent. The Twins need a lot of help to being able to compete again, dump Buxton and get some pitching. 

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Buxton is a tough one... has played at superstar level for about 2 months of his career but it is clearly there. Guy can't stay healthy so understand the Twin's view. 

Not sure what the answer is. Giving him a monster deal would not be my answer. Trade him to a NL team for top prospects would be my first choice if can be done. Atlanta for Waters and Muller... would get it done for me... or something like that 

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23 minutes ago, TheLeviathan said:

I'd be guaranteeing 52M.  If Byron Buxton thought he could guarantee himself a lot more than what the Twins are offering.....they wouldn't be actively negotiating around the known offers.  As Hayes implied in his story, the team and Byron agree on large components of the contract the team offered.

That alone should tell people what the actual market might pay.  Turning down close to 100M has a very high risk of being the last time that much money is on the table for him.

Right, I used a 3 year opt out and you said 4.  My bad but the point remains the same at 52M guaranteed.  Having said this, I totally agree with you and I have now heard two ex-GMs detail their thoughts on the radio and they agree with you.  I just think Buxton and his agent are holding out for a higher percentage of guaranteed money.  That seems very plausible, right.  We can all sit here and throw out terms that seem to make sense but it's all quite irrelevant if the player is holding out for a guarantee.  Players really strongly prefer to be guaranteed the money regardless of what transpires on the field so this should be expected.

The same is true for Berrios.  Many assumptions the team would not give him 5/125 or something in that neighbor.  Therefor, the problem is the team must be cheap.  How do we know that Berrios refuses to forego free agency for less than 6/180?  All of our solutions are meaningless without know the player's expectations/demands.

 

One last thought on Buxton,  I really want to get him signed.  However, I am conflicted knowing he has never stayed on the field and with the exception of one month this year, he has never been much above average offensively.  His history is a bit like JBJ and I bet Milwaukee is wishing they had that deal back.

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Best hope is he goes to an NL team.  He will be another player who lights up the Twins whenever he plays them.  Except with him, when he's playing for revenge, he's good enough to hit for the cycle every other time while stealing home runs over the wall.  It won't just be dingers like with Papi.

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