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  • It’s Time to Pay Byron Buxton


    Ted Schwerzler

    Byron Buxton just hit the IL after returning for only two games. A hit by pitch leading to a broken hand landed him there. Despite being shelved, 2021 has never made it more apparent that the Twins need to pay the man.

    Image courtesy of © Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    Injuries are often unpredictable, and the situation becomes one more of reaction than it does preventability. Recently Lucas Seehafer wrote a wonderful piece outlining Buxton’s maladies and what to make of them. The man is a tireless worker and in exceptional shape. Short of the early career positioning that had him prone to taking down outfield walls, nothing since has been a direct reflection of his own doing.

    This week Cody Christie talked about whether the decision is to pay Buxton or Jose Berrios. I’ve already argued in favor of Jose, and my reality is that the correct path is to retain both.

    In 2021 Byron Buxton has played just 26 games thus far. He led the majors in fWAR at the time of his hip injury, and his 2.6 fWAR would be a pace of 16.2 fWAR over the course of 162 games. That would go down as the single greatest season in terms of fWAR throughout Major League Baseball history.

    With Buxton it used to be a question if the production at the dish would be there. Since the moment he made his big league debut, he’s been the best defensive outfielder in the league. For the better part of the past three years now, we’ve seen that the bat has caught up to expectations as well. He’s got a .903 OPS and 139 OPS+ dating back to 2019. I’ve never been especially high on utilizing his speed for stealing bases because my assumption was always that the power would play. He’s hit 33 homers in his last 153 games, and the 44 doubles make it unnecessary for him to steal third base.

    I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone willing to argue against Buxton’s talent on the field. There are so few players that can do what he does, and at the level in which he contributes. It’s understandable to suggest that being without him while injured hurts the team, but even more damning would be to see him showcasing his abilities for someone else.

    Every single organization in baseball knows what Buxton’s injury history is. That means he’s going to face the same payday challenges no matter where he goes when the questions of availability are brough up. All it takes is for one team to pay him a value that coincides with the missed time, and Minnesota handing out a $100 million deal doesn’t preclude them from making other complimentary decisions.

    The reality is that the Minnesota Twins need Byron Buxton, probably more than he needs them, and despite a few missteps towards him along the way it’s time for the front office to match the number that gets something done.

    Byron Buxton is a generational talent type of player and trying to replace that type of production is much harder than finding money to make the other pieces fit.

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    The Twins are in a really interesting position with Buxton. We all saw the incredible spring he had, really on pace for MVP. If that truly was a glimpse of what we he has developed into, then yes. Extending Buxton, regardless on injuries, should be the priority for this organization. Yeah, the injuries are a major red flag, but how many guys can do what he is able to do, when healthy, in MLB? Trout, that's it. If the Twins do decide to let him walk, then becomes the 2nd coming of Willie Mays and stays healthy, we all will scream "cheap Pohlads" , blah blah... It really comes down to potential. Buxton is a generational, organization changing talent. If it comes down to he or Berrios in terms of getting paid, lets go with upside in Buxton. We know what Berrios is now and I'm not quite sure he has the true no.1 upside he wants to get paid like. Gamble on the perennial MVP that Buxton could become, it's the Twins, how many times does a player like this come along? 

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    Any extension at this point starts with what he'll realistically be paid as a free agent - and I don't have a great idea of what that is. Does anyone have any thoughts on that?

    With his talent and age (27), he could be looking at an 8 year contract if he didn't have the injury history. But with it? Will anyone give him five years? Four? Six? Five feels right to me, but I wouldn't be too surprised at anything between three and six.  

    And the amount per year could be anywhere between $15-25M depending on how healthy he is over the next year-and-a-half.  So is 5/$100M the starting point?

    And I'll throw in one other semi-reasonable scenario: he spends enough of 2021 and 2022 injured that he and his agent decide it would be best to just sign a "make good" deal for 2023 - which makes him accepting a qualifying offer not totally crazy. 

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    Pay Buxton at this time, what is the pay for injury prone guy (bad luck or not on some injuries, injured nonetheless).  Team friendly deal in today's market, not sure what that would be.  I would say 4 year deal, $60M, with half guaranteed with incentives for another $20M based on games played (%'s), team leader in categories, player of the month, MVP, gold gloves, etc. etc..  He makes share under $6M today and his base goes to $15M based on what if he is healthy conversation. COVID influenced financials where teams aren't making hand over fist money with attendance restrictions, cash in has to be part of the conversation.  His agent won't buy it though.  Is worth a crap ton more, not in my opinion but I'm not writing the checks either

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    4 hours ago, John Bonnes said:

    Any extension at this point starts with what he'll realistically be paid as a free agent - and I don't have a great idea of what that is. Does anyone have any thoughts on that?

    With his talent and age (27), he could be looking at an 8 year contract if he didn't have the injury history. But with it? Will anyone give him five years? Four? Six? Five feels right to me, but I wouldn't be too surprised at anything between three and six.  

    And the amount per year could be anywhere between $15-25M depending on how healthy he is over the next year-and-a-half.  So is 5/$100M the starting point?

    And I'll throw in one other semi-reasonable scenario: he spends enough of 2021 and 2022 injured that he and his agent decide it would be best to just sign a "make good" deal for 2023 - which makes him accepting a qualifying offer not totally crazy. 

    I think what the Twins gave Donaldson could be helpful.  Donaldson was older with a much more established track record of success but got 4/92.  I think he is far more likely to see short term, make good offers as teams hesitate to invest in free agency in general, much less players with huge red flags.

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    Buxton is having a better year than George Springer ever had and it's not particularly close.  He is even having a better year than Betts ever had.  Buxton and his agent are thinking he is a breakout super star.  I can't imagine they would even consider a $100M at this point.  They are thinking they are in line for a giant payday.  Many people have a very self-sided view of their value.  He is not thinking that his injuries should negate his value.  He is thinking those were fluke injuries.  He is not thinking about the way he has played throughout his career.  He is thinking this is his new norm.  Maybe he will continue to be something close.  Regardless, he is not accepting a deal that does not pay him like a superstar.  He can just play it out and he is going to get $100M+.  If he plays it out anywhere near the way he is playing it's $200M+ at least in his mind.

    The only way this team sign Buxton at this point is by winning the bid once he becomes a free agent.  The chances might be slightly better if we kept him but there is no way I would pass on a return that included a really good SP prospect or perhaps a top 50 guy that can play SS or CF.    

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    11 hours ago, Vanimal46 said:

    Good luck. Negotiating with an uninterested party is pretty tough. 

    I don't know where this narrative comes from but there's two rebuttals:

    1. If you're mad at someone, be mad at the front office for jerking his pay around with service time manipulation.

    2. It's a business for the player too, and interest involves a financial aspect. It's not on the athlete to offer discounts after playing below their value for years.

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    6 hours ago, John Bonnes said:

    Any extension at this point starts with what he'll realistically be paid as a free agent - and I don't have a great idea of what that is. Does anyone have any thoughts on that?

    With his talent and age (27), he could be looking at an 8 year contract if he didn't have the injury history. But with it? Will anyone give him five years? Four? Six? Five feels right to me, but I wouldn't be too surprised at anything between three and six.  

    And the amount per year could be anywhere between $15-25M depending on how healthy he is over the next year-and-a-half.  So is 5/$100M the starting point?

    And I'll throw in one other semi-reasonable scenario: he spends enough of 2021 and 2022 injured that he and his agent decide it would be best to just sign a "make good" deal for 2023 - which makes him accepting a qualifying offer not totally crazy. 

    5/$100M is where I think things start too, and I'd suggest the Twins sign two of those deals this offseason. One for Buck, one for Berrios. I guess I'm not totally out on waiting until his walk year to do the extension, but I think retaining him has to happen, and once you're a FA it seems highly unlikely you'll return to your former team. I'd sign up for a QO and an extension though too.

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    1 hour ago, Major League Ready said:

    Buxton is having a better year than George Springer ever had and it's not particularly close.  He is even having a better year than Betts ever had.  Buxton and his agent are thinking he is a breakout super star.  I can't imagine they would even consider a $100M at this point.  They are thinking they are in line for a giant payday.  Many people have a very self-sided view of their value.  He is not thinking that his injuries should negate his value.  He is thinking those were fluke injuries.  He is not thinking about the way he has played throughout his career.  He is thinking this is his new norm.  Maybe he will continue to be something close.  Regardless, he is not accepting a deal that does not pay him like a superstar.  He can just play it out and he is going to get $100M+.  If he plays it out anywhere near the way he is playing it's $200M+ at least in his mind.

    The only way this team sign Buxton at this point is by winning the bid once he becomes a free agent.  The chances might be slightly better if we kept him but there is no way I would pass on a return that included a really good SP prospect or perhaps a top 50 guy that can play SS or CF.    

    I am as high on Buxton as anyone, but I can't subscribe to this. He's a superstar, and his numbers are bonkers, but they are in 26 games. His market, with the Twins or otherwise, is going to be reflective of a player that has missed substantial time and I don't think that should or would be a surprise to his camp.

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    The Twins can’t give a guy with Burton’s lack of durability more than 4 years and not more than $18 Million a year. However, 4 years/$72 million is a fair deal for both sides. 

    The Twins should also consider a trade before the deadline. 

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    39 minutes ago, Ted Schwerzler said:

    I am as high on Buxton as anyone, but I can't subscribe to this. He's a superstar, and his numbers are bonkers, but they are in 26 games. His market, with the Twins or otherwise, is going to be reflective of a player that has missed substantial time and I don't think that should or would be a surprise to his camp.

    I agree with you completely on this perspective.  What I am suggesting is that it's quite probable that Buxton and his agent have a different perspective.  I know I would not advise him to take $100M today and it's also really common for a player to be looking for a much higher payday than they get.  At the very least they are thinking that if he can play at a high level for the next year and a half he is going to cash a much MUCH larger check.  So, why sign now when the $100M level is basically assured.  What did JD Martinez want compared to what he ultimately got.  In this case you have a guy who is as good as anyone in MLB right now.  I would not be even remotely surprised if he has a visions of a $200M payday.  He is NOT signing now for $100M

    IMO, the only way we sign Buxton is by being the highest bidder in the free agency process.  So, why not take a elite prospect if we can get one now and join that bidding process when it comes time.  Would the Rays let him go for a comp pick.  Absolutely not.  

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    51 minutes ago, Ted Schwerzler said:

    I don't know where this narrative comes from but there's two rebuttals:

    1. If you're mad at someone, be mad at the front office for jerking his pay around with service time manipulation.

    2. It's a business for the player too, and interest involves a financial aspect. It's not on the athlete to offer discounts after playing below their value for years.

    Not one place did Vanimal say he was mad....he said one side wasn't interested in staying together. I'm not sure where you got this at all.

    As to the point, MLR is right. Buxton and his agent want him to be paid like a superstar....and 5/100MM isn't close to that. I'm guessing 4/100 would be a good starting point, as it is a longer term prove it deal, that still gets him to FA at 31/2.....Even that probably isn't enough, though. More like at least $150MM ...over 6 years is the minimum.

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    48 minutes ago, strumdatjag said:

    The Twins can’t give a guy with Burton’s lack of durability more than 4 years and not more than $18 Million a year. However, 4 years/$72 million is a fair deal for both sides. 

    The Twins should also consider a trade before the deadline. 

    How is that fair to Buxton? I mean, looking at what Donaldson got, that's low.....and that's from a mid market team....

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    I don't think 5/$100 will get you even close to signing Buxton. I'm guessing his ask will start somewhere more around 6/$200, and his actual signing will be something like 5/$150. There are a few teams with enough money to take on the risk of a contract that size, and the potential payoff if he stays healthy is enormous. Buxton and his agent know this, and will not accept less. I wouldn't if I were him anyway.

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    1 hour ago, Ted Schwerzler said:

    I don't know where this narrative comes from but there's two rebuttals:

    1. If you're mad at someone, be mad at the front office for jerking his pay around with service time manipulation.

    2. It's a business for the player too, and interest involves a financial aspect. It's not on the athlete to offer discounts after playing below their value for years.

    Did you quote me by accident? The narrative is very simple. He’s been offered extensions the last couple of off seasons. Buxton has declined. That’s it. 

     

    Whatever the last offer on the table was, add another year or 2. Also add another $1-2 million on the AAV. The Twins will need to go above and beyond to prevent him from talking to other teams. 

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    10 minutes ago, Vanimal46 said:

    Did you quote me by accident? The narrative is very simple. He’s been offered extensions the last couple of off seasons. Buxton has declined. That’s it. 

     

    Whatever the last offer on the table was, add another year or 2. Also add another $1-2 million on the AAV. The Twins will need to go above and beyond to prevent him from talking to other teams. 

    The Twins did not call him up one September so they could get an extra year of control.  Buxton was very clear he was not happy about that, and for good reason, he was playing well at the time and he heard about this through a press release.  For a short while it seemed like they were not even on speaking terms.

    If it's true that Buxton is laughing off the Twins offers, one has to wonder if the Twins burned this bridge before they built it.

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    I think the Twins really need to look at Buxton objectively. 2017 is Buxton's best year not because of productivity, but because he played in 140 games, and it remains the only season he's ever played more than 92. In 2017, Byron managed 4.9 bWAR or 3.6 fWAR as a center fielder. Byron ranks 18th in MLB for center fielders from 2018-2021 with 6.3 fWAR, trailing Max Kepler by 2.4 WAR.

    Including MilB, here are Buxton's total games played for the years.
    2012 - 48
    2013 - 125
    2014 - 31
    2015 - 118 (72 MiLB, 46 MLB)
    2016 - 141 (49 MiLB, 92 MLB)
    2017 - 143 (3 MiLB, 140 MLB) missed 12% of MLB games
    2018 - 64 (36 MiLB, 28 MLB) missed 82% of MLB games
    2019 - 88 (1 MiLB, 87 MLB) missed 46% of MLB games
    2020 - 39 (0 MiLB, 39 MLB) missed 35% of MLB games
    2021 - 30 (3 MiLB, 27 MLB) missed 65% of MLB games
    Regardless of how freak some of Buxton's injuries may be, there are semi-chronic issues (back, wrist, hamstring, migraines) underneath the broken hands and as Buxton ages, it seems unrealistic to expect his missed games to decrease so expecting Buxton to miss 80 games a year would be fairly reasonable. I think it would be completely unrealistic to expect Buxton to play in 100+ games a season.

    If everything was in a vacuum, 80 games from Buxton is still valuable. Say 3-4 WAR valuable, but the Twins would still need to keep a player who is able to be starting center fielder on the roster to cover the 80 games a year Buxton will miss. The aforementioned "backup" will A. not appreciate being relagated to the corners whenever Buxton can play B. want to be paid like the center fielder they really are. C. force roster crunches when both Buxton and "backup" are active.

    There's another important concern with Buxton, and that's his dependence on speed. Besides Buxton's amazing feats in the outfield made possible by his blazing speed, he can expect 20%+ of his hits to come from weak grounders which would be automatic outs for 80% of MLB players. When Buxton's speed starts to decline, he'll be uniquely vulnerable to seeing his WAR plummet because so many of his "hits" are of the poor contact, slow rolling grounder variety. Taking away 5% of his hits from a drop in speed would reduce his OPS by about 50pts along with dropping his superhuman fielding values. Buxton would no longer be an MVP caliber player, even when healthy, and suddenly, he's only worth 2-3 WAR per season because of his missed 80 games. How prepared are the Twins to gamble Buxton doesn't lose that single step as he ages past 30?
    2019 = .262/.314/.513 OPS .827 versus .236/.281/.487 OPS .768. 
    2020 = .254/.267/.577 OPS .844 versus .238/.244/.561 OPS .805.

    A lot of people wind up gambling a lot more than they wanted to because of the fear of missing out. The "what if???" scenario. I don't think there are a lot of MLB teams out there who are willing to gamble on Buxton and I don't think the Twins are in a position where they can afford to do it. I'd prefer trading him this year or chancing the ability to sign him as a free agent at the end of 2022. Buxton's injury history is too long and too varied for even a full, healthy year to help his image so no matter what happens, Buxton's value isn't likely to increase much.

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    1 hour ago, Ted Schwerzler said:

    I am as high on Buxton as anyone, but I can't subscribe to this. He's a superstar, and his numbers are bonkers, but they are in 26 games. His market, with the Twins or otherwise, is going to be reflective of a player that has missed substantial time and I don't think that should or would be a surprise to his camp.

    The guy can't stay healthy! How do you spend crazy money on a guy that you can't rely on?  Let him get healthy and hope he doesn't tear a fingernail and trade him in the off season

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    The Yankees paid oft-injured and not as good Aaron Hicks 7/70....they'd pay twice that to Buxton, at least. They and other big-market teams CAN take the risk that Buxton plays more than 120 games a year.....I just don't know if the Twins can. Like, I don't know the answer for a team like the Twins. The Twins paid sometimes injured Donaldson 4/92.....Anyone think Buxton is worth less than that? I doubt the Twins or Byron do.....

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    39 minutes ago, Mike Sixel said:

    The Yankees paid oft-injured and not as good Aaron Hicks 7/70....they'd pay twice that to Buxton, at least. They and other big-market teams CAN take the risk that Buxton plays more than 120 games a year.....I just don't know if the Twins can. Like, I don't know the answer for a team like the Twins. The Twins paid sometimes injured Donaldson 4/92.....Anyone think Buxton is worth less than that? I doubt the Twins or Byron do.....

    Maybe they will, and I say let them. The dude can't stay on the field. Does he get that regardless of how many more games he plays this year? What about next? Assuming there even is a season, I don't believe he'll play another 100 games before 2023.

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    2 hours ago, Ted Schwerzler said:

    5/$100M is where I think things start too, and I'd suggest the Twins sign two of those deals this offseason. One for Buck, one for Berrios. I guess I'm not totally out on waiting until his walk year to do the extension, but I think retaining him has to happen, and once you're a FA it seems highly unlikely you'll return to your former team. I'd sign up for a QO and an extension though too.

    What incentive does Buxton have to sign a 5/100 deal? If he signs that deal it's because he's given into the idea that he'll be hurt every year of his career. If I'm his agent I'm telling him the Twins can pay you 200+ now or we go year to year to establish health and superstardom then sign a mega deal. I can't imagine Buxton believes he'll suffer fastball to the head concussions every year, or fastball to the hand broken bones every year (for goodness sake quit lunging at first trying to beat out every groundball and save your hip from being jammed into the socket 5 times a week). Maybe you can talk him into a 2 year deal at 30 mil? But why would he give up his prime years for 100m instead of playing out next season with the faith that he can stay healthy, win an MVP and get 10 years $300m?

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    2 minutes ago, chpettit19 said:

    What incentive does Buxton have to sign a 5/100 deal? If he signs that deal it's because he's given into the idea that he'll be hurt every year of his career. If I'm his agent I'm telling him the Twins can pay you 200+ now or we go year to year to establish health and superstardom then sign a mega deal. I can't imagine Buxton believes he'll suffer fastball to the head concussions every year, or fastball to the hand broken bones every year. Maybe you can talk him into a 2 year deal at 30 mil? But why would he give up his prime years for 100m instead of playing out next season with the faith that he can stay healthy, win an MVP and get 8 years $200m?

    Thats exactly what I think he should do. I mean if I were the Twins, I'd maybe offer 2/50, for what he's done and on the off chance 2023 looks better than it does today. 

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    1 hour ago, Mike Sixel said:

    The Yankees paid oft-injured and not as good Aaron Hicks 7/70....they'd pay twice that to Buxton, at least. They and other big-market teams CAN take the risk that Buxton plays more than 120 games a year.....I just don't know if the Twins can. Like, I don't know the answer for a team like the Twins. The Twins paid sometimes injured Donaldson 4/92.....Anyone think Buxton is worth less than that? I doubt the Twins or Byron do.....

    This.  This is the sole reason why I'd spend more energy trying to lock down Berrios.  It's not a matter of who is better, in my view.  It's more about signability and Buxton has turned down multiple offers and he's only gotten better as he's went.  Buxton is clearly the game changer this team needs, but I don't realistically believe that they can sign him.  Buxton has repeatedly bet on himself and he's proven to be correct.  I don't know why that would change at this point.

    Obviously the team has to try.  I'd be furious if they didn't, but I just don't see them taking the financial risk.  Teams like the Yankees can take that risk and not really blink.  The fan in me wants nothing more than for him to sign here, but the realist in me doesn't think it's a good idea unless it's team friendly or incentive laden.  And he's shown no interest in that.  And frankly, I don't really blame him.

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    1 hour ago, flpmagikat said:

    Thats exactly what I think he should do. I mean if I were the Twins, I'd maybe offer 2/50, for what he's done and on the off chance 2023 looks better than it does today. 

    But he, and his agent, knows that every major market team will likely be after his services and will be willing to pay him $25+M for 4 or 5 years (if not more), not two.  The AAV will need to be quite a bit higher to make that enticing.  Even at 5 years, he'd be a FA again at 32 and can still sign another bigger contract like Donaldson did.  

    And if he does continue to be hurt all of the time, a longer deal still guarantees that he's making that cash.  A short term deal doesn't afford that.

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    I think some of you are correct. I do not see 6/200 because of his health issues.  I can see 6/150.  If the Twins do not know what he wants the FO is much worse than reported.   With his latest injury, it will be hard to get full value this summer (I know it sucks).  If he wants more than 6/150 or close, I believe the Twins have to trade him this year, and go for the bigger rebuild.

    We do not know if their will be a season next year (full or shortened).  The CBA is likely to undergo major changes.  Either the QO could be removed or FA moved to after 4 years or 5.  If the owners go that route, I would guess they would want a hard cap, that is not going to happen.  So there is a lot of risk here.  I would pay within reason, but don't know status or if reason is even a possibility.  

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    Worth noting....the frequency of 5+ year deals has dramatically tailed off in recent years.  Only the most elite players with few risks are getting contracts like that.  I feel like a lot of these projections are ignoring a significant change in trends.

    Aaron Hicks was a much healthier player than Buck and that deal looks terrible now.  Plus it has zero chance of being signed in today's market.

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    1 minute ago, TheLeviathan said:

    Worth noting....the frequency of 5+ year deals has dramatically tailed off in recent years.  Only the most elite players with few risks are getting contracts like that.  I feel like a lot of these projections are ignoring a significant change in trends.

    Aaron Hicks was a much healthier player than Buck and that deal looks terrible now.  Plus it has zero chance of being signed in today's market.

    I think he's going to want 4/100.....as a guarantee, and the ability to sign another deal.....maybe as low as 3/70......but that is a total guess.....compare him to Donaldson.....

    If he played half a year at 1/4th this year's pace, he'd put up 4 fWAR.....what is that worth? If you play a guy like Kepler the other half, and he puts up 1-2 as your CF? I'd guess a lot....

    But, sure I could be wrong.....I freely admit that.

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