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  • Byron Buxton's Injury History Part of the Offseason Equation


    Cody Christie

    One of Minnesota's most significant decisions this winter is whether or not to retain Byron Buxton for the long term. His storied injury history plays into whatever decision the team ultimately makes in regards to Buxton's future.

    Image courtesy of Denny Medley, USA TODAY Sports

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    The Twins are in a position to re-sign Byron Buxton because of his time missed due to injury. If he had been healthy for his entire career, he'd likely cost more than the Twins would be able to afford. Reports this summer said Buxton's representatives were close to an extension, but the two sides couldn't agree on the contract incentives.

    Here is an updated timeline of Buxton's injury history during his big-league career. There were other injuries during his time in the minors. Below you will also see the number of games he played per season and the Twins record. 

    2015 (46 G, 83-79): Buxton made his much-anticipated debut in June, but he missed nearly two months with a sprained left thumb that cost him a large chunk of his rookie season.

    2016 (92 G, 59-103): Minnesota was heading to one of the team's worst seasons in franchise history. Buxton played in half the season, but he missed time in May and August dealing with a knee contusion and back spasms.

    2017 (140 G, 85-77): Buxton's best overall season still saw him miss time with a groin strain and migraines. He still finished in the top-20 for AL MVP and won the Platinum Glove as the league's best defender. 

    2018 (28 G, 78-84): Unfortunately, migraines followed Buxton into the next season, including time missed with a strained wrist and a fractured toe. His toe injury had to be frustrating as he injured himself by fouling a ball off his foot as part of a rehab start in the minors. 

    2019 (87 G, 101-61): Concussion-like symptoms and a bruised right wrist impacted the early part of the season before a season-ending collision with the wall resulted in shoulder surgery. Minnesota won over 100 games, but a healthy Buxton might have been able to make a difference in the playoffs.   

    2020 (39 G, 36-24): Buxton was carted off the field with a left foot sprain during the team's ramp-up to the season. Luckily, this only cost him a couple of games at the season's start. At the end of 2020, Buxton was hit by a pitch in the helmet which caused the recurrence of concussion-like symptoms. 

    2021 (61 G, 73-89): Buxton was off to a torrid start to the year before hamstring issues, and hip strain put him on the IL. Only three days after returning from the hip strain, Buxton fractured his hand when he was hit by a pitch. 

    Overall, there has been a combination of bad luck and aggressiveness play that have resulted in Buxton's ever-growing injury history. However, these injuries also mean the Twins may be able to sign him to an incentive-laden deal. Minnesota's ultimate decision with Buxton will come down to the value they feel he will provide the team in the years ahead. When he's on the field, he is among baseball's best players. Does that outweigh the time he misses due to injury?

    Should the Twins make a long-term investment in Buxton? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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    The mentality the Twins cannot afford a player isn’t supported by the stadium value, metro or overall market size of the Twins. Joe Mauer received one of the largest contracts in baseball when he was extended and it never impeded their payroll.  Also, if Buxton was healthy, he wouldn’t be living high on the SSS MVP per game level he had this past season. Buxton would be a perennial All Star, but I don’t believe he’d have any MVPs.

    That said, it’s hard to argue what teams are forking out to secure perennial All Stars. Harper, Machado, Arenado… none of them are as stable as Buxton because Buxton creates as much defensive value as offensive value. Of those names, only Harper is a threat to outproduce Buxton overall in a full season. It makes it difficult to argue Buxton wouldn’t encroach $30MM territory if he was playing full seasons. His free agency age would limit his contract duration to a max of probably 8 years.

    As it is, Buxton neither has the durability, nor the full season performance to justify more than a couple years or $20MM per season on the open market. 

    Fans on this site will multiply Buxton’s WAR by $8MM and say thats the going rate for production; however, that’s not what teams “buy” WAR at. They aim to purchase at $6MM. Buxton is a 3 WAR player at his typical half season. On the open market as a hypothetical free agent, Buxton gets 3yrs, $48MM right now. Outside of Twins Territory, among fans and I suspect front offices, people aren’t nearly as enamored with him and don’t view him as some sort of hybrid prospect looking to turn the corner. MLB teams are all very concerned with durability.

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    Not going to speculate what the final deal can/should be.  That is something for the FO and Buxton/his agent to decide.  What I will say however, is get it done.  

    I don't see how the Twins can begin preparations for next year until the Buxton question is answered.  On the other hand, don't have a clue what/if the CBA negotiations will mean to signing him.  Hopefully, they are talking as I type this and we will have an announcement...soon!

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    The reporting from late last summer is that there was agreement on the base guaranteed salary, but disagreement on the incentives.  Have no idea how far apart the two sides were, but that sure sounds like something that could be hammered out if both sides are interested in getting a deal done. 

    Twins FO should be happy to pay the incentives if achieved, and BB gets long-term financial security no matter what happens.

    Sounds like a Win-Win.

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    I think he was potentially a HOF CF, but I have repeatedly brought up Pete Reiser who was also a potential HOF OF.  Pete played like Byron and he was magnificent except he could not make it on the field. https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/r/reisepe01.shtml If you do not know him, watch this - Pete Reiser you tube.  Please watch this YOUTUBE.  He was great and so is Byron. 

    I know we have talked about HOF - I would put Pete in.

     

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    Buxton IMO impacts the game in so many way like nobody else can. The problem to get a viable sub so we can win at least 1/2 our games when he's not playing. They could offer him a little less in base pay and come to an agreement on incentives if he prefers it that way.

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    A big part of the equation of Buxton's future I rarely see discussed is Buxton's national perception. Yesterday Bill James posted a Twitter poll of whether Buxton or Benintendi was more likely to still 'break out' despite their injuries. Completely missing the reality of Buxton's production from 2019 to 2021. Any time I talked baseball with a non-Twins baseball fan in the last 3 years and fawned over Buxton, there was a reception of pity and holding back a laugh at my future heartbreak whenever the next injury was to hit. And of course, the reaction frustratingly often wound up correct. 

    The question I have is how do other front offices see him? What matters more, the massive talent or the uncertainty, especially with the CBA issues ahead? I'm inclined to believe he is valued more highly by the Twins fanbase relative to the national baseball fanbase. As unfair as I think it is, I think Buxton's health history has made him a punchline outside of Minnesota. I think if they shop him for a trade they will be lowballed and disappointed by the potential returns. And when he hits free agency he's going to be disappointed with the offers. Of course it'll only take one team to prove me wrong on this, so I can't even say it with a high degree of confidence. 

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    I would agree an incentive deal is warranted, but the question is will Buck agree to one.  My guess he will hit FA market and not sign an extension this year.  If the Twins are competing for playoffs they will keep him on the roster, but if they are not doing well they will trade him, unless the offers do not match what they could get in QO, assuming the new CBA still has compensation for lost FA.  

    Buck is entering last year in crazy time because of CBA up in air this year.  I am sure his agent is saying do not sign incentive deal with Twins, but bet on self this year, and look for full contract from other teams.  Some teams may be more willing to risk him not playing for big money than Twins can afford.  Dodgers and Yankees come to mind right now that will take that hit. 

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    2 hours ago, Harrison Greeley III said:

    A big part of the equation of Buxton's future I rarely see discussed is Buxton's national perception. Yesterday Bill James posted a Twitter poll of whether Buxton or Benintendi was more likely to still 'break out' despite their injuries. Completely missing the reality of Buxton's production from 2019 to 2021. Any time I talked baseball with a non-Twins baseball fan in the last 3 years and fawned over Buxton, there was a reception of pity and holding back a laugh at my future heartbreak whenever the next injury was to hit. And of course, the reaction frustratingly often wound up correct. 

    The question I have is how do other front offices see him? What matters more, the massive talent or the uncertainty, especially with the CBA issues ahead? I'm inclined to believe he is valued more highly by the Twins fanbase relative to the national baseball fanbase. As unfair as I think it is, I think Buxton's health history has made him a punchline outside of Minnesota. I think if they shop him for a trade they will be lowballed and disappointed by the potential returns. And when he hits free agency he's going to be disappointed with the offers. Of course it'll only take one team to prove me wrong on this, so I can't even say it with a high degree of confidence. 

    Most people view him as a good, not great player who is always hurt in my experience. Buxton has never even been elected to an All Star Game. Twins fans are often crowning Buxton as MVP by finding a stat website which values him the most and they multiply Buxton's SSS to get to a nice pretty number as if it was guaranteed Buxton's production wouldn't change as the scouting reports on his plate approach gets out there.  

    Both former MLB players, Carlos Pena and Harold Reynolds believe Buxton should have signed already for the 7 years $80MM (ignoring the incentives). 

    If the Twins offered some of the contracts to Buxton I've seen floating around on the site, they'd be tripling what any other team in baseball would pay Byron.

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    21 hours ago, SteveLV said:

    The reporting from late last summer is that there was agreement on the base guaranteed salary, but disagreement on the incentives.  Have no idea how far apart the two sides were, but that sure sounds like something that could be hammered out if both sides are interested in getting a deal done. 

    Twins FO should be happy to pay the incentives if achieved, and BB gets long-term financial security no matter what happens.

    Sounds like a Win-Win.

    I did think that was strange. Just about any incentive ladder that maxes out around $30mil a season seems reasonable based on his performance when healthy.

    The holdup has to be the escalation of those incentives. The Twins of course would prefer something parabolic, while Buxton is going to want something logorithmic. The answer lies more towards the linear if fair compensation for both sides is to found.

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    Just get him signed. If he reaches the incentives he wants, it means he has a great season for you. If he IS healthy for a full season, I see him as one of the best players in baseball. If not, well, then its more of the same from him. Fantastic for short stretches, and then hurt. In this case, you are paying him the kind of deal you like. 10/11 mill per year.

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    14 minutes ago, bean5302 said:

    Most people view him as a good, not great player who is always hurt in my experience. Buxton has never even been elected to an All Star Game. Twins fans are often crowning Buxton as MVP by finding a stat website which values him the most and they multiply Buxton's SSS to get to a nice pretty number as if it was guaranteed Buxton's production wouldn't change as the scouting reports on his plate approach gets out there.  

    Both former MLB players, Carlos Pena and Harold Reynolds believe Buxton should have signed already for the 7 years $80MM (ignoring the incentives). 

    If the Twins offered some of the contracts to Buxton I've seen floating around on the site, they'd be tripling what any other team in baseball would pay Byron.

    I have to concur with this.  We have a player who is great defensively, but average offensively despite what his most ardent fans want to believe.  In 7 full or partial seasons he has played in 493 games out of 1686 games, has a lifetime .248 BA and .299 OBP.  He has developed power over his career, but last year, even with 19 HR and 23 2B, he had all of 32 RBI's.  Career wise, 187 extra base hits (not to mention 214 singles) only produced 204 RBI's.  By comparison, even Simmons has 303 RBI's over his last 7 seasons, and he was graded out as the 6th best defender at any position with the minimum number of games, and everyone (well, almost everyone), is screaming to drop him and hand the job to a raw rookie or a 20 mil FA as soon as the ink on the contract is dry.  I know I am a minority here (again), but I have never seen what everyone (well, almost everyone) else sees in BB.  He is a very fragile player physically who cannot seem to stay on the field, a fantastic fielder when he is on the field, and an average hitter with some power.  I get he had the fantastic April last year, but I seem to remember him hitting over .400 before getting hurt; he finished up the year at .306, so he was much closer to career form once back.  One sensational month and a gold glove in center field vs roughly half a season a year actually in the field just does not equate to 80 mil plus over 7 years.  The problem is, he believes he is worth even more, and somewhere there will be a deep pockets team that will gamble on him and give it to him.  I just don't think it should be us.  We have too many needs elsewhere, and JP always has had, and probably will have again, a finite range for payroll.  I wouldn't take that gamble.  Which means a trade while his value is at its highest.  We have seen what we can do with him and without him; in '17 he played in 140 games and we won 85 games.  He played in 87 in '19 and we won 101.  I know that is only one example, and there are examples to use on the other side, but it does suggest anyone can be replaced if need be, by injury or a player leaving, and it is no different here.  We need the money for other things.  

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    4 hours ago, Harrison Greeley III said:

    The question I have is how do other front offices see him?

    If he were to hit free agency this time next year, my expectation would be he'd face a wider spectrum of opinion than most players - no unanimity.  The many teams that can't stomach the risk, would give a cold shoulder to him, or offer a heavily-incentive-laden contract at best.  But so what - the only ones that matter, from his POV, would be the big-market teams who have World Series aspirations immediately and for the coming seasons, and all it really takes is two to vie for his services.  To those teams, getting help for the long regular season is of secondary importance because they expect to reach the post-season already, so Buxton's track record of partial seasons won't bother them the way it would a lesser team.  They would look at October.  "If we sign him and he's healthy for the post-season, he's a difference maker - and if he's not healthy, then all we did was waste money," would be my expectation of their bottom-line thought process.  A good $30M annual value contract offer to him would be merely the cost of doing business, for those anointed teams.  No team purposely wastes money, but for a difference-maker they would be willing to take on risk.

    If Buxton is willing to accept an incentive-laden contract from the Twins, the team should get the paperwork in place.  They should have done this already during the last trade deadline, IMO, based on the reporting we saw.

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    8 minutes ago, ashbury said:

    If he were to hit free agency this time next year, my expectation would be he'd face a wider spectrum of opinion than most players - no unanimity.  The many teams that can't stomach the risk, would give a cold shoulder to him, or offer a heavily-incentive-laden contract at best.  But so what - the only ones that matter, from his POV, would be the big-market teams who have World Series aspirations immediately and for the coming seasons, and all it really takes is two to vie for his services.  To those teams, getting help for the long regular season is of secondary importance because they expect to reach the post-season already, so Buxton's track record of partial seasons won't bother them the way it would a lesser team.  They would look at October.  "If we sign him and he's healthy for the post-season, he's a difference maker - and if he's not healthy, then all we did was waste money," would be my expectation of their bottom-line thought process.  A good $30M annual value contract offer to him would be merely the cost of doing business, for those anointed teams.  No team purposely wastes money, but for a difference-maker they would be willing to take on risk.

    If Buxton is willing to accept an incentive-laden contract from the Twins, the team should get the paperwork in place.  They should have done this already during the last trade deadline, IMO, based on the reporting we saw.

    From everything I have read, they did.  They made an offer which was pretty incentive rich and not as much guaranteed, and he said no.  And there is every reason to believe he will continue to say no.  We are asking him (if 7 years is accurate) to commit to the team until he is almost 35, meaning he will have given up his prime free agent years for (reportedly) 80 mil or so guaranteed.  To earn more than that he has to stay healthy, and even he knows that is not a sure thing with his track record.  He thinks he can get a ton more guaranteed in FA, so it is time to poop or get off the pot for the Twins; give him his guaranteed money and cross your fingers, or get what you can in a trade while he still has value and rework your outfield.  I know which way I would go, and it would probably be in the vast minority right now.  

    And a quick question on this subject:  what ever happened to the old sign and trade option?  Sign him to a pretty decent long term contract, asking him which teams he would prefer to be traded to if a trade were to come to pass, and negotiate with those teams.  They would know they have long term control, and we would have long term bargaining position, keeping him for ourselves if no one comes through with pitching.  A win win?  Or is that not done anymore?  

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    47 minutes ago, Mark G said:

    From everything I have read, they did.  They made an offer which was pretty incentive rich and not as much guaranteed, and he said no.   

    The published reports were incomplete on details.  I believe they said the parties were in agreement about the base salary but  were apart on the incentives.  So I lack insight on how high the Twins had gone, but if they didn't make it possible for the player to make $30M with reasonable full-season performance thresholds (150 games or similar) then IMO the team fouled up.  Less likely IMO is that Buxton was holding out for the incentives to reach $40M, in which case I'd cut the team some slack.  Probably we'll never know, but as events play out we may be able to guess increasingly well about last summer's negotiations.

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    I don't know, my friend; 30 mil on up for a player who, even when healthy, has only hit in the .250ish range his entire career, not withstanding one April last spring?  That is the only way the team could foul up in my extremely humble opinion.  Because, as I read it, all he has to do is stay healthy and play, not produce at any particular level to reach the "incentive" part.   Good gig if you can get it, I guess, but not one I would give if I were the FO.  Now if the incentives were like a pitcher might get, number of wins, All star pick, Cy Young selection, that sort of thing only a batters version of it, I would go for it in a heartbeat.  But I think we can bet that he is not going to take a lower guarantee and bet on himself producing at an all time high level (for him) consistently throughout the contract.  He wants a crap ton of guaranteed money and believes he can get it somewhere, and I not only don't think the FO will go that route, I don't think they should.  We need that money elsewhere.  I do hope I am wrong about the numbers, and the contract can be done, but I just don't see those numbers being realistic for us and I think he believes he can get them, so.........

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    9 hours ago, Mark G said:

    I have to concur with this.  We have a player who is great defensively, but average offensively despite what his most ardent fans want to believe...

    I wouldn't agree Buxton is "average" at the plate at this point. He's been well above average for the past 3 years now. I think I'd expect him to be wRC+ or OPS+ 120ish right now. It's substantial, but certainly not great or elite.

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    6 hours ago, ashbury said:

    The published reports were incomplete on details.  I believe they said the parties were in agreement about the base salary but  were apart on the incentives...

    From the leaks I saw, the total incentives brought the contract above $100MM total. To me, that says Buxton probably was going to absolutely max out around $18MM / year with all incentives.

    4 hours ago, Mark G said:

    ... But I think we can bet that he is not going to take a lower guarantee and bet on himself producing at an all time high level (for him) consistently throughout the contract.  He wants a crap ton of guaranteed money and believes he can get it somewhere...

    The leaks were pretty solid that Buxton agreed to 7 years $80MM in guaranteed ($11.4MM / year), but the incentive package wasn't close. 

    FWIW, no teams in MLB wanted Buxton bad enough to really bend the Twins' ears and the Twins were openly shopping him before the trade deadline. That should speak volumes about how other teams view Buxton.

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    So, out of curiosity,  what would a fair contract for Buxton be?  (Throw out some opinions).   I would say to offer  12 mil per/yr for 5 years guaranteed with $185,000 per game over 81 games to a max of 150 games played.  Add a 1m bonus for making the all-star game (each year).  This would give him 60m guaranteed over 5 years with games played at high production level to nearly double the total salary.  Could that be turned down by any reasonably sane human being?  Ok, blast away.

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    There is no one giving Buxton 30M.  He might get between 20-25M on a one year deal with options, but that's it.  Baseball does not hand out big contracts - term or AAV - to guys with this many red flags.

    An extension should have a base around 16-18M with incentives that can reach 25M.

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    1 hour ago, TheLeviathan said:

    There is no one giving Buxton 30M.  He might get between 20-25M on a one year deal with options, but that's it.  Baseball does not hand out big contracts - term or AAV - to guys with this many red flags.

    An extension should have a base around 16-18M with incentives that can reach 25M.

    I would concur completely, depending on what they list as the incentives.  Incentives for things like runs scored, RBI's, power numbers, etc. would be great.  Extra money just for games played, regardless of production, should be a non starter.  It would be like giving a pitcher more just for staying healthy and starting 32 games regardless of the results of the games.  The guarantee should match his proven production so far, which has to take into account his games played vs. games missed.  The incentives should be based on what he provides above and beyond that, including numbers beyond just games played.  

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    On 11/10/2021 at 3:24 PM, Mark G said:

    Now if the incentives were like a pitcher might get, number of wins,

    This kind of incentive is, I believe, specifically ruled out.  It's not even in the CBA, but in the Major League Rules (not the one that covers definitions of balls and strikes, but the one that lays out how teams may operate).  In Rule 3(B)(5) it states:

    (5) No Major League Uniform Player's Contract or Minor League Uniform Player Contract shall be approved if it contains a bonus for playing, pitching or batting skill or if it provides for the payment of a bonus contingent on the standing of the signing Club at the end of the championship season.

    (My emphasis)

    We'd all like to incentivize good outcomes, but pretty clearly MLB has through hard experience learned that there are unintended consequences.  A team can reward games played, but not homers or batting average.

    Which I find interesting, in that I remember seeing that MLB is proposing, during the CBA negotiations, to go well past HR and BA to using something like FangRaphs WAR as a metric.  Pretty radical, in that light.

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