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One Fan’s Opinion: Byron Buxton Contract: Bust or Boom


Sherry Cerny
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The day has arrived! The Twins have brought Christmas early to Twins Territory signing a deal with Byron Buxton! Some fans are elated, others are cautious but hopeful. Many contracts have had success, but others have not worked out for the team writing the checks. Join me while we take a look at a few contracts that have gone bust in the past. 

It finally happened. The Twins have signed Byron Buxton to a huge deal, $100 million deal over seven years and a bunch more incentives per Ken Rosenthal. Twins fans are very excited right now, but not every big contract pays off. 

While this is an excellent deal for the Twins and exciting for the fan base, it is more than fair to be  concerned about the health of Buxton and how much time he can stay on the field. Buxton has only appeared in over 100 games once in his career. That was in 2017, when he appeared in 140 games. 

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$15 million  per year with incentives is not an insufficient salary for a player who has trouble staying on the field. While this investment could work out for the Twins, it could also go wrong if Buxton doesn't stay healthy. 

When Buxton is healthy, he is easily the best player on the field and in the lineup. He’s made clutch catches and his batting average in 61 games this year was .306  . He made those 61 games count. The incentive for him to stay healthy? $500K each for reaching 502, 533, 567, 600, and 625 plate appearances. It  is an incentive to stay healthy.

The gamble is Buxton is like other players who have had outstanding years and been an asset to their team. This article is not meant to say that Buxton is not an asset, or will not fulfill the contract. When he is on the field, he is a solid asset to the team. He is a hard-nosed player who rehabs hard and does go all out. The concern of this writer, and some other fans, is that larger deals with players who are prone to injury can be exciting while still being concerning. Some players got long-term, big contracts and then busted after the ink had dried. Here are three such examples:  

Gary Matthews Jr had an outstanding year with the Rangers in 2005. He hit  .313 and drove in 79 runs with 19 home runs. The Angels liked  what they saw and offered him five years and $65 million. He was barely productive with the Angels posting a .248 hitting average, ten home runs, and totaled just  55 RBI in three seasons. The contract amount is comparable to what we are looking at in terms of length and desired production for Buxton.

Jeffrey Hammonds signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Brewers. In 2001 that was a fairly large deal but it wasn’t the largest or craziest. Milwaukee saw Hammonds hit.335 and drive in over 100 runs while posting an OPS over .900 the year before. Hammonds only played 49 games due to injuries in 2001 and never lived up to his contract or potential. 

Looking for an example with the Twins? Well, the largest contract the Twins have signed was with Joe Mauer. He was coming off of an MVP season and a year away from free agency. At the time, the Yankees and Red Sox likely would have been competing for his services, so the Twins didn’t let him get to free agency. They locked him up for eight years and $184 million. The Twins were about to move into Target Field and the local boy turned future Hall of Famer had to be retained. Was he worth the $184 million during that contract? No. He fought some knee injuries and a concussion that altered the trajectory of his career. He struggled some and had to switch positions. 

Like Mauer a dozen years ago, the Twins could not afford to lose Byron Buxton this offseason. Of course, the ultimate hope would be to see Buxton have an inverse career to that of Mauer. Buxton has fought injuries before signing his nine-figure deal. Hopefully he will be able to remain healthy after signing the deal. 

The Twins are signing Buxton based on his previous field production and his immense talent and ceiling, but also considering  his on-field time missed. 

There have been notable times when players have been signed and gone downhill. The contract shows that the Twins have the means to make big contracts happen. Not all large contracts are bad. The Twins certainly are showing us that they are willing and able to make commitments to players and I believe this is a good sign for the organization and fans alike. I know there is still plenty of time left and about $50 million left, so now with Buck locked in and a good outfield roster, we can focus on putting that money into pitching - both starters and relief. 

While I am cautious about what this will mean for the Twins in the long run and the team if they have to continually cover for Buxton if his injurious state does not improve, it  is proof that the organization is willing to do what it takes to retain players. The fans who were putting all their hopes into the organization, I just hope it’s enough.

Now we can take  a quick sigh of relief and hope the Twins make some pitching moves that will help the team in 2022 and beyond. But will they sign anyone before the CBA comes to an end and signings will be on a freeze. 

 


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You're missing arguably the most similar case of all--the signing of Jacoby Ellsbury by the NY Yankees after his excellent season with Boston in 2013 (but the Yankees were really dreaming of his 2011 season, which was MVP caliber and ignoring his injury-riddled 2012 season). The oft injured, but certainly fleet-footed and talented center fielder signed with the Yankees for 153 million over seven years, but they could not keep him on the field. From 2017 to spring of 2021, they've shelled out 68 million dollars to a guy who has not played a single game during that time. They are now finally out from under that contract but it was nothing short of a contract disaster.

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I think you have to consider in the Mauer situation, 1- he was a hometown kid that had been MVP caliber for a few years, 2- He played a position that was extremely demnding and played it very well, posting numbers few had ever posted, 3- It would have been a PR nightmare to let him walk when the team was trying for so many years to gat a stadium built and had finally come so close.

Yes there are times where big contracts go bad, but there ar also times where big contracts are the right move. Sometimes you just gotta go big or go home!

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26 minutes ago, Highlander1 said:

Always concerned for Buck to stay on the field. If they can get 2 full years out of the 7 I believe those would be league MVP years. That would justify the contract. 

At least it is not a Bobby Bonilla contract! Are the Mets still paying on that? 

Welcome to Twins Daily!

Yes, the Mets are still paying Bonilla and will be until 2035 when he's 72...

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I think Joe Mauer is the right comp in many ways.  We had to sign Mauer and signing him was the right move.  But we signed him knowing that there could be serious regression and a good chance he couldn't play catcher his entire term of the deal.  Nevertheless it was the right move.

Buxton could absolutely flop and earn a tiny portion of this deal and it could be dead money by the end.  It could also be an absolute windfall for this team.  (Upside the Mauer deal didn't have!)  Hell, it could even end up being both....a windfall early and an albatross late.  All of those possibilities are part of the fair risk analysis.  That analysis is why the Twins were able to land a 7 year, 15M AAV in the first place.  There are serious risks.  Serious upside.  But I've always said....bet on upside.  

It's a good signing, let's hope we swoon over the results in 7 years.

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4 hours ago, Highlander1 said:

Always concerned for Buck to stay on the field. If they can get 2 full years out of the 7 I believe those would be league MVP years. That would justify the contract. 

At least it is not a Bobby Bonilla contract! Are the Mets still paying on that? 

Yep! He will be paid through 2035!

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6 hours ago, Aerodeliria said:

You're missing arguably the most similar case of all--the signing of Jacoby Ellsbury by the NY Yankees after his excellent season with Boston in 2013 (but the Yankees were really dreaming of his 2011 season, which was MVP caliber and ignoring his injury-riddled 2012 season). The oft injured, but certainly fleet-footed and talented center fielder signed with the Yankees for 153 million over seven years, but they could not keep him on the field. From 2017 to spring of 2021, they've shelled out 68 million dollars to a guy who has not played a single game during that time. They are now finally out from under that contract but it was nothing short of a contract disaster.

you are absolutely right - I didn't miss it - I had a few in there but had to tailor down the article. There are also others like Bobby Bonilla. Many contracts have busted, but my hope is that with incentives to hit 500K per each game appearance reached - he is staying true to his word on staying healthy and doing what it takes, then I think this will be a good deal.

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5 hours ago, Karbo said:

I think you have to consider in the Mauer situation, 1- he was a hometown kid that had been MVP caliber for a few years, 2- He played a position that was extremely demnding and played it very well, posting numbers few had ever posted, 3- It would have been a PR nightmare to let him walk when the team was trying for so many years to gat a stadium built and had finally come so close.

Yes there are times where big contracts go bad, but there ar also times where big contracts are the right move. Sometimes you just gotta go big or go home!

Well, I am ready to go big and hope it works!!!

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Mauer. You can't complain about his contract. He gave the Twins more than they deserved for the first 7 years. As the face of the franchise, it was a fine choice to make. It as a decent move to first base, as it was doubtfuyl that he would play that many games behind-the-plate, no matter how well he kept himself in condition.

 

You have to look at the Twins overall spending during the time of the conract. Did it keep them from spending elsewhere (no). 

 

I always feel that every team should have a "franchise player" once a season where that salary doesn't count against any payroll cap. If you look at Joe as a marketing coup, he was cheap. Sure, he wasn't always the best in the public scene, too quiet and unassuming. But better than the opposite. Did he offer enough leadership, can argue there, too. But you can never doubt his work ethic.

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To me it looks like the perfect contract.

$15 million a year with incentives is win-win for both parties. 

Starling Marte whom is a dude with injury questions and age regression, signed for $19.4 million a year x 4.

Buxton could be the best player in the MLB, Marte most likely won't.

Even if Buxton busts, $15 million won't kill the Twins payroll.

Nice work Twins front office.

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2 hours ago, bean5302 said:

The contract's incentive design will allow it to be moved as well so it shouldn't cripple the Twins.

Except for the full no-trade clause in the deal. 

That shouldn't be too big a stumbling block - it the Twins decide to move on, they can probably find a team he is willing to go to. 

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Bust potential is exaggerated here. He'll only be 10% of the payroll at most, that's not much burden. If he plays out half his contract he's likely to outperform it, there's plenty of likelihood between boom and bust. If he reaches the incentives it'll be a bargain.

Mauer's contract was longer and at least 20% of payroll as much as 25% except the last year (18%), way more.

This is a team friendly contract. Many teams would love to have him to it. And it couldn't've happened to a nicer guy.

 

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Well said. Almost every team in MLB would love to have Buxton on that contract. Will it work out for him and the Twins? Stay tuned. What I have learned in life is to bet on good people. Buck will be a great ambassador for the Minnesota Twins along with a very good player. Can't wait to walk into the ball park and see that great smile on that field. Great job Twin's FO and Buck on coming together to find the common ground.

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Yes indeed.  We are happy Buck is signed.  I think he got a good deal for a part time player with a career batting average of .248.  I hope he can pitch!  We don't have much for major league pitching right now.  With a very inexperienced staff Twins are going to need Buxton to be as great as ever running down fly balls in the outfield.

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This is the exact type of deal I proposed in comments weeks ago.  Wish I could go back and find it now.  I was saying I would offer 15 year with huge incentives allowing him to earn fair market value if he plays full year at level he has shown.  

I have little faith he will stay healthy, but at 15 a year you are not handicapped payroll wise. Here is to hoping he earns his full value of his contract. 

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"his batting average in 61 games this year was .306".  Very true, all around, but keep in mind he was hitting over .400 when he went down.  Once back he FELL to .306, meaning he hit a lot closer to his career average once back.  Basically, he had one great April; do we want to commit 7 years and 100 mil based on one great April?  

Before you all start yelling at me, I know the defensive side; I have been arguing keeping Simmons for that reason alone (2nd best SS and 6th best overall defender, according to articles I have read) .  He is Gold Glove when he is on the field, no question.  Ah, but there is that on the field question again.  Bottom line; don't yell too loud at the folks who have their doubts on this one.  We all want the Buck that we saw in April, not the one in the trainers room in June or the one hitting .248 for his career.  Which one is going to be here for the next 7 years?  Hope for the best, but give someone some innings in CF to get comfortable just in case.  

It sure was nice, though, to see JP open the check book.  Don't put it back just yet, Jim.  

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On 11/29/2021 at 10:09 AM, Aerodeliria said:

You're missing arguably the most similar case of all--the signing of Jacoby Ellsbury by the NY Yankees after his excellent season with Boston in 2013 (but the Yankees were really dreaming of his 2011 season, which was MVP caliber and ignoring his injury-riddled 2012 season). The oft injured, but certainly fleet-footed and talented center fielder signed with the Yankees for 153 million over seven years, but they could not keep him on the field. From 2017 to spring of 2021, they've shelled out 68 million dollars to a guy who has not played a single game during that time. They are now finally out from under that contract but it was nothing short of a contract disaster.

Ellsbury isn't really a good comp, though. Yes, he plays the same position as Buxton, and had some injury issues...but Ellsbury was 30 when he signed the deal with the Yankees and they made the mistake of assuming that his flukiest season where he had a slugging % far and away better than anything he had ever done was representative of his true value. It's also important to note that Ellsbury averaged 130 games a season for the Yankees between 2014-2017; the real problem was he was only an above average hitter in one of those 4 seasons. 

Gary Matthews Jr signed his big deal after his first all-star caliber season, which came when he was 31. The Angels should have been concerned about the fact they were giving a 5 year deal to a player entering his age 32 season who had rarely been above average at the plate in his 20s, whether healthy or not.

Jeffrey Hammonds had some warning signs too: huge batting average spike from playing in Colorado (the splits are instructive here OPS of 1.116 at home vs .741 on the road in 2000) that should have made people wary of his production levels thereafter. He was a first-time (and completely undeserving) all-star that year as well; his contract sure looks like a result of someone in MKE not understanding the ol' Coors Field Effect from back then. The injury history shows some similarities, but Hammonds was never, ever as good as Buxton, healthy or not.

There's definite risk to the Twins in signing Buxton to this deal, but Ellsbury, Matthews, and Hammonds were all older when they signed those big deals, and only Ellsbury was ever in Buxton's league as a player.

The Mauer comp is a bit better of one, but you can't predict concussions and until that nailed Mauer he was still turning in all-star seasons. beyond that...the Twins are better protected against the risk this time. Mauer's deal was $23M per signed 10 years ago. Buxton is only guaranteed $15M per starting today.

 

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15 hours ago, Wax off said:

Bust potential is exaggerated here. He'll only be 10% of the payroll at most, that's not much burden. If he plays out half his contract he's likely to outperform it, there's plenty of likelihood between boom and bust. If he reaches the incentives it'll be a bargain.

Mauer's contract was longer and at least 20% of payroll as much as 25% except the last year (18%), way more.

This is a team friendly contract. Many teams would love to have him to it. And it couldn't've happened to a nicer guy.

 

His injury history could lead to him barely playing at all.  If 10% of your payroll is devoted to a guy not helping you at all, that is a major problem.  As you say, there is a wide range of outcomes on this and hopefully it lands on the upper end of that spectrum.

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55 minutes ago, TheLeviathan said:

His injury history could lead to him barely playing at all.  If 10% of your payroll is devoted to a guy not helping you at all, that is a major problem.  As you say, there is a wide range of outcomes on this and hopefully it lands on the upper end of that spectrum.

His ceiling is intact. He's probably best player in the world when healthy. His injury history is why he cost 100m and not 300m. I'd rather have Buxton, his injury history and contract than any of those comparable 300m guys.

10% isn't that bad when you look around the league and see lots of teams deal with that or worse every year.

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