Byron Buxton is coming off a strong season where he led the Twins in WAR even though he only appeared in 39 of the team’s 60 games. He combined to hit .254/.267/.577 (.844) with 13 home runs and three doubles. Granted it was a small sample size, but his OPS and his slugging percentage were both career highs. It might seem silly to trade away a player of his caliber, but this is going to be an offseason unlike any other.
Buxton’s name has come up in trade talks before. At the 2019 trade deadline, the Twins were looking to upgrade their rotation for a potential playoff run. One of the teams Minnesota had discussions with was the New York Mets. The Twins were interested in acquiring starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard, but talks stalled when the Mets insisted that Buxton be included in any trade. Minnesota wasn’t willing to deal Buxton then, so what might have changed?
One of the reasons the Twins might be more willing to deal Buxton is his current contract situation. Minnesota only has team control of Buxton for two more seasons as he enters his second year as an arbitration eligible player. He will likely be making somewhere between $4-6 million this season and next year would be a higher in his final arbitration year. Two years of team control might be the sweet spot for trading away a player, because the team acquiring him isn’t getting an expiring contract.
The Twins can also go in a different direction with Buxton if they wanted to try and sign him to an extension. Minnesota was able to work out extensions with some of the other young core players like Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco and Miguel Sano. Would Buxton be willing to sign a deal that bought out his remaining arbitration years while also giving the Twins more team control?
Approaching a Buxton extension is a little trickier than the names mentioned above, because of the way his career has transpired. There’s no question that he is a dynamic player, but injuries are part of his career that can’t be ignored. He’s only played more than 92 games in one big league season. The Twins have tried some creative approaches to keeping him on the field including having him start further back defensively and trying to jump off of two feet instead of one foot when attempting catches at the wall. Other teams know his injury history too and that might make a deal tougher to find.
Minnesota would have a big hole to fill in center field if Buxton were traded. Max Kepler can take over in center, but he has expressed concerns in the past about the wear his body goes through when playing at a more demanding defensive position. Other options on the 40-man roster include Jake Cave, Gilberto Celestino and LaMonte Wade Jr. A more intriguing choice would be promoting Royce Lewis, but he has only played a handful of games above the High-A level and he’s played limited defensive innings in center.
Buxton’s trade value may never be higher as he enters the prime of his career and he has two years of team control. Minnesota is a better team when he is on the field, but this off-season is going to force teams to make some tough choices. Trading Buxton would be a difficult decision, but if the deal was right, it might be the time to move in a new direction.
Do you think the time is right to trade Byron Buxton? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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