As we enter the final week of November, it was recently announced that the deadline to tender arbitration-eligible players would be pushed to November 30. This gives free agents a day to sign before the expected December 2 lockout. While many will wait through the labor strife, players have the option to strike a deal in the 24 hours between the two deadlines.
With relation to Buxton, it’s a certainty that Minnesota will tender the star centerfielder a contract. Entering his final year of arbitration, MLB Trade Rumors projects Buxton’s 2022 salary to come in just north of $7 million. At the very least, the Twins will come to terms with the Baxley, Georgia native on those grounds. What’s more interesting is the dates that loom large in the future and the belief that Buxton’s situation will be resolved before the commencement of the 2022 regular season.
Here are some key dates to circle and what they mean:
November 30th - Arbitration Tender Deadline
This one jumps out as the most important. As highlighted above, Buxton will be tendered a contract, and there’s zero doubt about that. Avoiding arbitration doesn’t mean that the sides can’t still reach an agreement on an extension, but simply that Byron knows what he will be paid in the year ahead. It’d be ideal for both sides to hammer out the extension before this point and extend the player to a multi-year deal that buys out free agency years.
December 2nd - Current CBA Expired
Should nothing more be accomplished than a contract for 2022 being agreed to, the two sides will have 24 more hours to negotiate. December 1st is the final day covered by the current Major League Baseball Collective Bargaining Agreement. At 11:59 pm Eastern Time, the current CBA becomes void, and the lockout begins. Both parties can continue working towards a conclusion of this saga or leave each other hanging for whatever duration the labor limbo hangs on for. Both teams and players may have different parameters to deal with following the ratification of a new CBA. Still, little of it should impact Buxton, who is already in the final year of arbitration eligibility.
February 26th, 2022 - Spring Training Begins
As things stand now, this is where Minnesota opens the 2022 exhibition slate against the Toronto Blue Jays down in Florida. More often, the regular season is a hard deadline for contract negotiations to be completed by. Still, both sides could look at Spring Training being a key date given Buxton’s injury history. Wanting to have something done before actual action gets underway makes a good deal of sense. Obviously, this date is tentative given the uncertainty of where a lockout takes us. I’d imagine the league and player’s association are more open to losing Spring Training games than they are actual regular-season games that count.
April 2nd, 2022 - Opening Day
If there’s a hard deadline established, this would seem to be it. Minnesota can’t afford to go into the regular season without clarity on Buxton’s future. If he’s not extended by this date, the alternative of trading him has to become a reality. Given the volatility of his playstyle and injury history, risking the asset depreciation before the trade deadline would be a fruitless endeavor. Again, this date could be moved with respect to the CBA situation, but it’s almost a given that whenever the regular season starts, Twins fans will know the fate of Byron Buxton.
July 31st, 2022 - Trade Deadline
Should we reach this point with no clarity, the front office will have massively overplayed their hand. Not only having failed to extend the talented centerfielder, we could be talking about a player with a few months of lackluster performance or an injury that drags down his trade value. Without a long-term deal in place here, the opposition understands Minnesota is set to move on in the winter. Draft pick compensation may not be what it is now, and regardless, it would be a sad return for someone that should’ve commanded so much more.
That should be the complete timeline for dates to follow regarding this Buxton-saga. The longer it drags on, the more hopeless the outcome looks. I’d wager we see finality before the commencement of Spring Training, and having something done far sooner than that would be a much-welcomed reality.
The Twins have an opportunity to pay a generational talent because he’s been injured. It’d be silly to balk at that, but if they’re going to, they best get it right, and soon.
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