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  • My Take On The Twins' Byron Buxton Conundrum


    Lucas Seehafer PT

    Let me go out on a limb and be among the first to declare that Byron Buxton is no longer an enigma. He’s one of baseball’s most dynamic talents on both sides of the ball, possessing an ultra-rare blend of speed, power, and defensive instincts that rival — and, in many cases, surpass — those of the sport’s elite.

    Image courtesy of Brad Rempel, USA TODAY Sports

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    However, Buxton’s body, which has blessed him with his many talents, is also his greatest curse. Since becoming the Minnesota Twins’ full-time center fielder in 2016, Buxton has appeared in a mere 447 of a possible 870 games (51.3%) due to myriad injuries. And yet, over that span, he has produced 12.8 fWAR, has averaged 133.3 wRC+ since 2019, and won one Platinum Glove. In short, when healthy, Byron Buxton has performed like an MVP candidate. 

    But the Jekyll and Hyde nature of their star player — who is due to become a free agent after the 2022 season — has placed the Twins in a profound predicament: Do they try to extend Buxton and build around him, or trade him as part of a greater re-tooling project (one that was arguably initiated with the shipping of Jose Berrios to the Toronto Blue Jays)?

    For all intents and purposes, it appears as though both Buxton and the Twins have interest in inking a long-term deal. However, recent reporting by The Athletic suggests that the two sides remain at an impasse. The Twins reportedly offered Buxton a 7-year, $80 million deal laden with incentives in July, but the star center fielder and his agents rebuffed as they are more interested in a contract nearing $100 million in value. 

    While it may seem a touch insane for the Twins to cave and submit a nine-figure offer at first blush, consider that Buxton has produced $102.8 million worth of value over this 5.160 years of service time, according to FanGraphs. Assuming he is able to keep pace for the foreseeable future, a 7-year, $100 million deal would be right in line with his production value, even if he remains unable to keep his body from betraying him. If he does find a magic elixir that keeps him healthy, well, then the deal would be a steal (pun intended).

    But perhaps the most pertinent question facing the Twins isn’t so much, “Is re-signing Buxton the correct move?”, but more, “Would trading him be the wrong one?”

    Minnesota is coming off a disappointing 73-89, last place finish in the hapless American League Central, 2021 campaign and find themselves with only two pitchers — righties Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan, both of whom were rookies last season — slated to be in the starting rotation next summer. They already shipped away Berrios at last summer’s trade deadline and figure to be interested in offloading Josh Donaldson and a healthy chunk of the $77.7 million remaining on his contract.

    Trading Buxton either during the offseason or prior to the 2022 trade deadline would likely net the Twins a significant return of high-level prospects to further bolster their already deep farm system. These nebulous prospects could then be swapped for more veteran MLB talent or developed to form the foundation for the next iteration of the Minnesota Twins.

    But the world is an uncertain place, often rendering the most logical hypotheticals moot. Trading Buxton may make the most sense at this specific point in time from a long-term team building perspective, but doing so also introduces far more uncontrolled variables into the equation that is the Minnesota Twins than simply re-signing him would. Byron Buxton is an oft-injured MVP-caliber talent; the amorphous prospects could be anything, even a boat. (Or, more than likely, a boat that requires a healthy amount of time in the shop to reach its full potential.)

    Both moving on from as well as re-upping with Buxton present benefits and pratfalls that could either push the Minnesota Twins back into the contender’s race or further into baseball purgatory. But the talent that Buxton possesses is the kind that many teams blatantly lose for and spend years trying to acquire. If you’ve got a boat, you may as well use it, even if it requires spending quite a bit of dough on spare parts.

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    The enigma is why the Twins waited so long to extend and lock up this talent.  Everyone sees it, we know it is special, we have no CF to replace him at this point.  Since losing Kirby we have had a long list of good CF all of whom we traded, maybe we should keep one.  I am not a money guy and prices make no sense to me, but MLB has created its own economy and the team needs to work within it.  We still have a need for a strong C/SS/CF to defend and compete.  Without Buxton we have only one of the positions filled at this time.  Give us a Thanksgiving present - sign Buxton so we can go on and anguish over SS and SP!

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    Remember if you trade Buxton for prospects, which are an unsure thing, you are trading an unsure thing for them. Basically with Buck you have a 50/50 chance of playing Buxton, or Jake Cave, a fourth OF carried for insurance. I like Buxton, and have always believed in his talent even when he struggled, but since everyone uses stats on this site, here’s a stat: he only plays half the time. I am not sure if Cave and the other fill ins have a negative War or whatever you call it, but it should be subtracted from Buxton for the the CF value.

    Signing Buxton to see him play is one thing, signing him to win is another. As good as Buxton is he won’t make a team a winner that has two? SP, and basically no SS. Mike Trout can’t move the Angels, and they don’t have near the problems the Twins have. I like Buxton, you want to sign him so we can maybe watch him play fine I am good with that. If you are signing him to make the organization better in the long run, then it’s a mistake. 

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    If true, a 20 million gap over 7 years is absurd for the Twins to balk at.  If you're already at 80 the extra 20 for a shot at this level of talent is a no brainer.  How many millions have we watched them throw at dumpster talent in the hope that they will have a turn around year?  Yet they seemingly won't budge for Buxton.

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    It's almost amusing that people bemoan the fact of trading Buxton for prospects.  The same people who are saying the Twins made a haul of prospects on the Berrios trade are worried they will only get prospects for Buxton.  Remember prospects are just suspects until they prove themselves at the Major league level.  In any case I believe the Twins will mess it up 

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    4 minutes ago, Whitey333 said:

    It's almost amusing that people bemoan the fact of trading Buxton for prospects.  The same people who are saying the Twins made a haul of prospects on the Berrios trade are worried they will only get prospects for Buxton.  Remember prospects are just suspects until they prove themselves at the Major league level.  In any case I believe the Twins will mess it up 

    Fair, but the two moves aren't a 1:1 comparison. As time went on, it became pretty obvious that Berrios wasn't going to re-sign with the Twins. In that case, it makes some sense to trade him and at least get something in return. (And they got more of a prospect haul than anyone expected.) In the case of Buxton, it seems as though he's more than willing to re-sign, but the Twins are the ones balking. Giving him an offer well-below his production value only to trade him gives a false sense of trying.

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    Why the Twins FO has dithered on this for so long is a question the average fan cannot answer.  Remember when we Twins fans basically had the conversation "If you had to choose between Buxton and Berrios, who would YOU choose??"  Well, it was a spirited debate but I believe the winner was Buxton.  It wasn't "massively" in favor of Buxton, but he WAS the player most here on TD would have chosen.  And this was with our starting rotation in a total shambles.  The reason Buxton won out was because his talent (when healthy) is top 10 in baseball.  Berrios was no where near a top 10 pitcher.  So the Twins "appeared" to make their choice and traded Berrios to Toronto for two very nice looking prospects.  I believed the trade was a good one at the time and I still do.  Time may prove me wrong, but Martin and Woods-Richardson could be outstanding players for the Twins in the future.  Now however, the Twins FO seems to be stumbling and bumbling with what that strategy was supposed to be.  As fans, we still have no idea how they and the Pohlad's view this team for 2022.  There is nothing close to a "clear vision" coming out of the ivory towers of Twins leadership and I'm not sure ownership or the FO sees that for the problem it is.  We play in the A.L. Central.  There is no reason, given the talent still on the team and the resources that could be leveraged, that the Twins SHOULD be a contender in 2022 despite the fact that the White Sox are "ALL IN" on burying us next year and for years to come.   Buxton is the key to everything.  he's the type of player that should be the foundation of what the Twins want to be for the next 8-10 years.  He appears to be coming into his own.  You can just tell when you see him at the plate...this is a different cat than what we've seen previous.  He is confident and has a plan.  Remember when Paul Molitor kept getting hurt early in his career.  And then, he just kind of cleared that hurdle all the way to a Hall of Fame career, helping the Blue Jays to back to back World Series championships and being named World Series MVP in one of them.  I believe Buxton is going to clear that same hurdle and be relatively healthy going forward.  This ownership and FO need to step up and get this deal done.  As I mentioned earlier, the lack of clarity from both as to 2022 and their vision is dumping water on any fire there might be for 2022.  When a two time defending A.L. Central team crashes and burns to a last place divisional finish, the FO and ownership need to be correcting the flaws and making moves to get the team in a position to fire up the fanbase.  Failure to do this will ensure a disaster revenue-wise for the team next season.  Fans will continue to be soured on the commitment of ownership and the FO to not only provide a good team/good product but to keep good, homegrown talent on the roster.  And wasn't that the entire premise of building Target Field anyway ??

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    2 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

    The enigma is why the Twins waited so long to extend and lock up this talent.  Everyone sees it, we know it is special, we have no CF to replace him at this point.  Since losing Kirby we have had a long list of good CF all of whom we traded, maybe we should keep one.  I am not a money guy and prices make no sense to me, but MLB has created its own economy and the team needs to work within it.  We still have a need for a strong C/SS/CF to defend and compete.  Without Buxton we have only one of the positions filled at this time.  Give us a Thanksgiving present - sign Buxton so we can go on and anguish over SS and SP!

    If we toss out Buxton's first season when he had wRC+ of 5 and look at the next 3 seasons, he had a wRC+ of 86 / 92 & -2.  Buxton played in exactly one-third of the games played.  Is it at all puzzling the team did not extend early on?  It would have been great if they had because it probably would have been a great deal.  Would Buxton have signed the type of deal his performance to that point would have merited?  IDK but it's not hard to understand why the Twins did not extend him early on like an Azuna or most recently Wander Franco.  If they were going to get it done the time was probably after the 2019 season.  However, he once again played in only 87 games.  It's not surprising they were reluctant to bet big at that point and it would not be surprising that Buxton would not sign when he had the opportunity to greatly improve his value.  I guess what I am saying is that this situation is not exactly an enigma.

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    The situation is rediculous can the Twins really trade Buxton and get a better return.  If they do get a great return will they ever pay that person.  I'm feeling a bit disgruntled as a Twin fan lately and I'm not sure I want to be on this develop but don't pay merry go round.  Please sign Buck!

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    This whole topic has me wondering what the point is to MLB.  Is it for the owners to make money?  Is it for the players to make money?   If the Twins have a payroll of $130M,  how much money are they making?  I doubt like hell that they are losing any money.  What if they were to raise their payroll to $180M?  Would they then be losing money?   I doubt that too.  How much have MLB team values increased over the last half dozen years?   Money recouped.   So,  what is the point of MLB?  I think it should be to win the world series.  "Every year".  That should be the goal.   You try to sign the best players,  which makes your product more desirable,  which makes the fans want to spend more of their entertainment money on it.  This is what the Yankees do.  Yes, they have more money to spend due to market size,  but they try to win the WS every year.  Again,  I doubt like heck that any MLB team is losing money.  So, 'my point', sign Buxton, cuz he is a great player.  The Yankees would sign him.  Also spend some of those billions of dollars to sign some more of the top players.  Try to win the World Series.  Hey, if you try and it don't work out, well that should be the norm.  At least you tried.  But hey,  I don't really believe that is the Twins goal.

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    Carl and his offspring adhere to the Fred Flintstone philosophy of BUSINESS

    "Your only friend's a buck and the more bucks you've got, the more friends you've got"

    Contrary to the belief that:

    "You've got to spend money to make money"

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    Signing Buxton opens the potential for two extreme outcomes (of many): getting nothing for a lot of money, or getting a superstar level of performance for the length of the contract.  A trade likely splits the difference in terms of some blended outcomes.  I suppose we'll learn some more about our FO's tolerance for risk, from this episode as it unfolds.

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    2 hours ago, Whitey333 said:

    It's almost amusing that people bemoan the fact of trading Buxton for prospects.  The same people who are saying the Twins made a haul of prospects on the Berrios trade are worried they will only get prospects for Buxton.  Remember prospects are just suspects until they prove themselves at the Major league level.  In any case I believe the Twins will mess it up 

    The difference with Berrios is he clearly expressed he had no interest in remaining with the Twins. Buxton has expressed he wants to remain with the Twins. Big difference there.

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    This season I saw Buck beat out a GB, stole 2B, advanced to 3B on a FO and inspirationally scored on another FO. Those actions of small ball sparked a win for the Twins. A very small % of MLB players would have even made to 1B let alone went around the bases to score. Buck makes the difficult plays look easy so FO can't see it while others make easy plays look difficult and FO falls all over them. He impacts the game in every aspect both on the field and off.

    We won't get anything in trade because every team thinks that this FO are idiots that they have no idea what a gem they have so they'll lowball them with worthless prospects (pretty much like the Dutch did to the Indians, trading NY for trinkets).  Get rid of this FO and find some one who can get this done pronto.

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    Have a question that is unrelated to Buxton, however, related to a comment in your piece.

    Why do most people often comment that the Twins have only two pitchers in their tentative starting rotation for 2022, Ober and Ryan?  Why aren't they saying thee, including Randy Dobnak?

    Doesn't Dobnak have more starts, ie, more experience, than either of them?  Granted, he wasn't healthy in 2021 and the results weren't satisfactory, but when healthy previously he was an effective starter.  We don't know what the Twins plans for 2022 are, however, I suspect they may include Dobnak along side the other two as potential starters next spring.

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    1 hour ago, GNess said:

    Byron Buxton, injuries and all, is an exceedingly rare talent who can impact the outcome of a MLB game in myriad ways.

    Just how many current and future Buxtons do the Twins think they have? 

    Here is a hint for the Front Office: Less than 2 and more than zero.

    Sign Buxton!

    I agree. I also believe it is far more likely that Buxton will figure out how to stay healthy than trading Buxton will bring in someone of comparable talent.

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    52 minutes ago, roger said:

    Have a question that is unrelated to Buxton, however, related to a comment in your piece.

    Why do most people often comment that the Twins have only two pitchers in their tentative starting rotation for 2022, Ober and Ryan?  Why aren't they saying thee, including Randy Dobnak?

    Doesn't Dobnak have more starts, ie, more experience, than either of them?  Granted, he wasn't healthy in 2021 and the results weren't satisfactory, but when healthy previously he was an effective starter.  We don't know what the Twins plans for 2022 are, however, I suspect they may include Dobnak along side the other two as potential starters next spring.

    Dobnak could easily be a starter and I don't think this past season is representative of his capabilities. But, Ryan and Ober were pretty dominant for rookies. Dobnak started off hot two seasons ago then dropped off precipitously. With Dobnak, if he doesn't have control he's really going to struggle because he doesn't get a ton of swing and misses. I don't think he's a lock like the other two, but he is a candidate.

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    Buxton is going into his age 28 (8th) season and has exactly 1+ exceptionally productive combined campaigns under his belt (2017 and 2020). He has only 6 AB's in post season play .125 with 4 K's). His career slash: .248/.299/.761. He has never seriously contended for MVP in any season because his offensive stats haven't been at all star level for most of his career, he doesn't draw walks, steal bases, or get on base enough to make a difference. The guy drafted 1 spot ahead of him also joined the league in 2015 and is grossly underpaid at $11.7 mil. Carlos Correa has also missed games pretty much every year like Buxton (albeit far fewer) but is a big-game legend already. Top 10 all-time (of 22,000+ players) in RBI's, HR's and WPA in the post-season. Yes, different positions and waaaay different teams but only one of the two has truly made a name for himself. I find it fascinating that Buxton is the only player in baseball garnering as much praise as he gets with such paltry career offensive production. If I were him, I'd pledge to give the team at least 2 FULL seasons of all-star caliber play before making contract demands. 

    Is there any other example of a guy playing in only half of his teams games over his career hitting under .250 with an OBP 20+ points below league average, zero 20+ HR seasons, zero 70+ runs/RBI campaigns, more K's than RBI's, runs, and stolen bases combined, one 100+ games played/season, and half the WAR of a guy entering the league at the same time and drafted in practically the same spot who rejected a contract worth $80 mil +incentives? 

    Defense is definitely worth consideration but you have to make roll call every day to use this as your bargaining tool. Buxton's speed trumps his smoothness and ball tracking- particularly deep balls where he has a habit of misreading and turning up the jets to recover only to crash test dummy with the wall. He's still got the wheels to make zero probability snags but playing at least 85% of your teams games for ONE season is just as impressive as the catches. 

    What the Twins offered makes sense. You already overpaid Donaldson, who absolutely killed it as the FOURTH best player on Atlanta in 2019. As for Buxton, well, as famously quoted "the most important ability is availability". Show up. Get paid. Take the deal.

     

     

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    6 hours ago, Whitey333 said:

    It's almost amusing that people bemoan the fact of trading Buxton for prospects.  The same people who are saying the Twins made a haul of prospects on the Berrios trade are worried they will only get prospects for Buxton.  Remember prospects are just suspects until they prove themselves at the Major league level.  In any case I believe the Twins will mess it up 

    Players to any level of play is suspect until they prove it over and over again. Kepler looked all world in 2019. It is suspect if he will ever do it again. Buxton is suspect to being able to play a full season. 

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    45 minutes ago, HerbieFan said:

    If we're trying to predict what will happen, I'd like to sum it up.  Falvey...Cleveland...Francisco Lindor.  

    Falvey is responsible for how The Guardians spend their money?  Falvey makes the trades for the Guardians? Falvey needed a shortstop and couldn't work his connections to get Lindor? Holy guessing game. Falvey did not trade Buxton at peak value, much like Cleveland did with Lindor?

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    Buck's swing is now a compact and readily reproducible thing of beauty. He can and will get paid a lot on the open market. He and his agent most certainly understand this. It is amazing how many people still believe what people tell them. Buck would not sign an extension unless it is guaranteed money and more than his people think he would get on the open market. The decision now is whether to trade or get another cheap year out of him. Given the fact that we are missing an entire starting rotation, I think it is safe to say that we will not be competing for the WS next year and therefore should trade him.  

    But hey, if it feels better to believe what people say above logic and actions, enjoy!

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    Sadly, we're going to be sitting here 15 months from now and Buxton will be elsewhere and he and Berrios will have signed new deals elsewhere for a combined amount less than Carlos Corea will be playing for and we'll be "hoping" for prospects to pan out.

     

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    8 hours ago, Major League Ready said:

    If we toss out Buxton's first season when he had wRC+ of 5 and look at the next 3 seasons, he had a wRC+ of 86 / 92 & -2.  Buxton played in exactly one-third of the games played.  Is it at all puzzling the team did not extend early on?  It would have been great if they had because it probably would have been a great deal.  Would Buxton have signed the type of deal his performance to that point would have merited?  IDK but it's not hard to understand why the Twins did not extend him early on like an Azuna or most recently Wander Franco.  If they were going to get it done the time was probably after the 2019 season.  However, he once again played in only 87 games.  It's not surprising they were reluctant to bet big at that point and it would not be surprising that Buxton would not sign when he had the opportunity to greatly improve his value.  I guess what I am saying is that this situation is not exactly an enigma.

    Back then the extension would not have been as long, but it also would not have cost as much.

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    3 hours ago, Platoon said:

     

     

     

    Mike Trout can’t move the Angels, and they don’t have near the problems the Twins have. I like Buxton, you want to sign him so we can maybe watch him play fine I am good with that. If you are signing him to make the organization better in the long run, then it’s a mistake. 

    Sign Buck to watch him play and take a chance that he stays healthy. The proposed contract is already at a discounted value based  upon his health. If it were not, he'd be worth 20 million  per year.

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    4 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

    Back then the extension would not have been as long, but it also would not have cost as much.

    I agree it would have turned out great had they signed him.  Would Buxton have signed a modest deal given his potential?  He also was a number 9 hitter that did not do much to indicate he was going to be a great offensive player.  So, I am by no means saying it would not have been a good idea.  Just saying it's not surprising either side might not  had been inclined much less both sides. 

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    Minnesota has a chance to have 1 superstar on each of its pro teams. Jefferson on the Vikings, ANT for the wolves, and BUCK for the twins. I could add Kaprizov with the wild. I believe every team needs that star power for the joy of looking forward to watching that player. I know I watch the twins game because I can’t wait to see him play. Each game he seems to make a run saving catch,or get a big hit. For myself and I imagine thousands of other Buxton fans, if he’s traded there will be no reason to go to the games or even watch them on tv. Please don’t let this one get away.

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    Should the Twins wish to sign Buxton, clauses in the contract such as "opt out" and "performance incentives" can be structured in such a way as to reach a contract acceptable to both sides.

    The fact that an agreement has not yet taken place indicates that Buxton will soon be gone from the Twins.  That being the case,the Twins need to be both proactive and aggressive in identifying trade partners.  This organization cannot revert to the Ryan philosophy of just fielding offers.  The Twins need to identify the SPECIFIC players they want in return and find a way of putting together a trade that lands them that talent.  That includes an area in which the Twins have been deficient in over the years = multi team trades. 

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