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Byron Buxton Agrees to a Contract Extension with the Twins


John Bonnes
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Earlier, Ken Rosenthal reported that the Minnesota Twins were "closing in on" agreement on a contract extension with Byron Buxton. Now, Jeff Passan is reporting that an agreement is in place for over $100M and will keep Buxton under team control through the 2028 season. 

Buxton represents one of the biggest pivot points of the Twins’ offseason and perhaps several seasons into the future. When healthy, he’s performed at an MVP level, most recently posting a 1005 OPS in 235 AB in 2021. However, his career with the Twins has been uneven, and not just because of the usual hype around a #1 overall prospect.

 

Since Buxton first joined the team in 2015, he’s only had one year with 500 plate appearances, and indeed only one with over 331. His injuries have ranged from seemingly self-inflicted problems due to his aggressive defense in center field, to worrisome nagging injuries like hip strains and foot injuries, to flukey injuries like a broken finger from being hit by a pitch.

On the other hand, he’s been absolutely elite defensively throughout his time with the Twins, and recently his offense has reached a similar level. This year he hit .306 with 19 home runs in just 61 games, a pace that makes him a 50-home run threat over a full season. He’s also only 27 years old, entering the peak period of many players' careers.

He is due to be a free agent next offseason, compelling the Twins to either sign him to an extension or trade him this offseason, lest they risk having him leave next year for nothing more than a compensatory draft pick. That urgency is further heightened by the threat of an impending work stoppage starting as soon as Wednesday night. If an extension or trade iss not made by then, there is a chance any such move would be delayed until some unknown point in a potentially compressed offseason, or thwarted altogether.

A deal would likely represent the biggest deal the Twins have made since they signed Joe Mauer to a contract extension in 2010 for $184 million dollars. That deal was also for a rare talent who contributed defensively, was at the peak of his ability, and on the verge of free agency. 

The deal with Mauer aged poorly, as leg problems and concussions limited his ability to stay at catcher and stay in the lineup. With Buxton having more health questions, the reality is it makes him more affordable; it’s unlikely the Twins could complete a deal without the built-in discount his health history affords them. 

The Mauer deal also took place as the Twins were completing a run of division-winning seasons and trying to lengthen their competitive window. Twins’ management’s next to-do for this offseason is to find some starting pitchers whom Buxton’s Gold Glove can assist with his range in center field. While the size of Buxton’s deal is likely significant, the Twins entered the offseason with as much as $50M or so to spend on free agents. A deal with Buxton is likely to maintain that capability.

Indeed, Ken Rosenthal has just published contract details:

The extension  guarantees $15M per year (except this year, when he still would've been under arbitration) plus very large bonuses for MVP bonuses and a series of $500K bonuses if he stays healthy for over 500 plate appearances. It is a very creative contract. I can't think of any that has had a bonus structure remotely similar to it. The deal essentially rewards Buxton extra money for staying healthy for a full season, handsomely for MVP-caliber production, but still guarantees him base salary commensurate to a top center fielder. 

If the Twins had traded Buxton instead, it would be hard for them to pretend that they could expect to be competitive in 2022. They would have lost their best offensive and defensive player, while also trying to replace 60% of their starting rotation. Retaining Buxton keeps the option of competing in 2022 alive. It should also make him one of the core pieces of the next competitive Twins team. Further pieces will still need to be assembled, but the deal represents a serious effort by the Twins to compete by locking up high-end home-grown talent for a long time.

We'll add details as they emerge. In the meantime, give us your initial thoughts below. 


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5 minutes ago, Linus said:

This is a pretty team friendly deal. Makes me wonder what took so long?

Really looking forward to watching Buck for the next 7 years. 

I agree. I don't see a downside to the MVP vote bonuses. If he's getting those votes, the money will be well spent.

Awesome job by the front office. It would have been devastating to lose our best player since Mauer and Johan.

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4 minutes ago, ashbury said:

MVP details are a little outside the box. But basically in line with consensus at this site. Posters, give yourselves a round of applause!

Well...some.  We had a sizable contingent saying anything less than 150M was a slap in the face and he'd get at least 25M AAV.

This deal says a lot about Buck wanting to be here.  It also says a lot about what his agents thought would be available in FA.

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I'm surprised about so many of the aspects of this contract. First, that the Twins were able to convince him to accept big MVP bonuses and not plate appearance bonuses, ensuring that performance, not health, will escalate the contract. Second, no opt out or anything, full no-trade clause (good for Buck!).

Remember, Buxton *should* be a free agent *right now* but the front office hosed him very intentionally. Byron appears to be a very forgiving man and we should all be thankful for it. This is a very team-friendly contract.

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8 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

I'm surprised about so many of the aspects of this contract. First, that the Twins were able to convince him to accept big MVP bonuses and not plate appearance bonuses, ensuring that performance, not health, will escalate the contract. Second, no opt out or anything, full no-trade clause (good for Buck!).

Remember, Buxton *should* be a free agent *right now* but the front office hosed him very intentionally. Byron appears to be a very forgiving man and we should all be thankful for it. This is a very team-friendly contract.

Hes been betting on himself this whole time, the confidence that he'll get MVP votes is just more of the same.  Love the swagger.  So far, he's backed it up.  Now he just needs to stay on the field.

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49 minutes ago, railmarshalljon said:

Love this for everyone. Hope this means we're not rebuilding/retooling and aiming to be competitive in '22.

How can we be competitive with Bailey ober and joe Ryan as our only starting pitchers and a slew of free agent pitchers already off the board this team is going to lose 100 games next year 

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