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  • Twins Are Rebuilding, Not Retooling, if They Trade Buxton


    Cody Pirkl

    When Jose Berrios was traded last season, the front office described the next chapter as a retool rather than a rebuild. Now rumors swirl of a Byron Buxton trade. Make no mistake, if these rumors come to fruition, there is no such thing as a retool.

    Image courtesy of Jon Durr, USA Today Sports

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    The Twins find themselves in a difficult situation this winter. After trading their #1 starting pitcher in Jose Berrios, they’re left with only two rotation spots tentatively spoken for, each by a rookie. A pitching staff that sunk the former back-to-back AL Central champs has to be completely reworked on the front end with significant needs in a bullpen that struggled as well. 

    Shortstop, the quarterback of the infield, is also vacant and will require a legitimate impact addition in order to help propel the team back into contention. In addition to on-field tangibles, they’ve also lost the leader of their pitching staff in Berrios, as well as the leader of the team as a whole in Nelson Cruz. A path to a comeback in 2022 is a bumpy one, but it could certainly be done.

    What can’t be recovered from, however, is adding center field to the list of vacancies. 

    Center field is one of the most important everyday players on any baseball team. In Minnesota, the player manning the position has been the reason the team has sunk or swam. Since the Twins rise to success in 2019, they’ve been 100-64 with Buxton on the field and 106-106 without him. Correlation does not equal causation, but there’s no denying those numbers are indicative of Buxton’s impact when you watch him on the field.

    Some have called for Buxton to be traded in the past, mainly due to his long list of injuries. There’s no stopping such an opinion, but those who hold it have to realize what they’re advocating. The Twins almost certainly surpass the point of no return if they choose to field a team without Byron Buxton.

    The best case scenario following a Buxton trade, regardless of the return, is to sell off literally everyone else. Pay part of Josh Donaldson’s contract to get the best possible return. Take advantage of the need for catchers across the league and get a haul for Mitch Garver. See if anyone is willing to make an offer for Taylor Rogers. 2022 will certainly be a wash, and these players would offer more value on the trade market than on a losing team.

    Does that reality sound painful? Try the alternative where the Twins trade one of the best players in baseball and try to compete in 2022. The path to doing so without emptying the farm system or spending an unrealistic amount in free agency simply doesn’t exist. Pretending that the team marches into the playoffs in 2022 without Buxton manning center field would set Twins baseball back years. At least Option A gives full attention to collecting young talent to try to develop a new core for the near future.

    The team still has a path to contention in 2022, and even if that doesn’t work out, their upcoming prospects should position them well for 2023. Extending Byron Buxton is a vote of confidence not only in the front office's ability to rebound, but in the current core that’s in place. Trading Byron Buxton is waving a white flag on both fronts.

    The next move by the front office won’t be forced. It’s a choice. Byron Buxton isn’t asking for anything near record-setting money. There is no better player they’ll ever find to man center field, and the one they have is a home-grown fan favorite. Such a move by the front office would be giving up on a two-year window that earned them so much praise despite it never having been capitalized on.

    In six years this front office has inherited a stinker of a team and converted it into a core of players that once had fans thinking the stars are the limit. Now they sit on the edge of a decision that would rightfully leave fans wondering “What was it all for?”.

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    The axiom of being strong up the middle - catcher, SS, CF - has been around along time and is true today as it ever was.  Those are the three key positions, the most important for success.  We look good at catcher if Garver is healthy and Jeffer's bat improves again, but SS is a puzzle we cannot afford to fix in the high end free agent market and hope for our prospects to be ready, and CF is even more important than ever in this fly ball era.  Buxton, when healthy, fills it, but if he is gone we are hurt in the lineup and field.  

    I do not know what the contract will be and will not comment on that.  But Celestino and Cave are the back up options right now.

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    I don't think Cave makes this team out of spring training if Buxton is gone.  This will not be resolved early as I feel Buxton's fate will not be known until a new CBA is in place.  Too many issues for teams that are close  or over the threshold to have a full market.  

    Also despite buxton's claim he wants to be here, we don't know what his reps are telling the Twins.  Berrios with his public statements did not want to be.  

    Tough position for the front office to be in.  I think they will ride it, because they are not going to get anywhere close to full value for Buxton this winter, but solution would be an extension, but don't know if that will happen.

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    Cody, I am handing you a "hammer" because you just nailed it !  There is no realistic scenario to the Twins being competitive if Buxton is traded.  There are dozens of instances where a team lost their best or a couple of their best players and actually over achieved.  The best case in my mind is the post Ken Griffey Jr./Randy Johnson Mariners that won 114 games.  I look back and STILL can't believe it actually happened.  But these Twins are NOT those Mariners and if Buxton is traded it will be a major fail by our illustrious FO  and at that point they should just tear it down and acquire young talent to compete in 2024.  The problem with trading Buxton is that his value has never been lower.  The Twins will get no impact players in a deal.  They just won't.  And trading Buxton should be the end of this FO and a new one can effect the rebuild.

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    "In six years this front office has inherited a stinker of a team and converted it into a core of players" ...

    Just my take, but the current FO does the best that they can to put a team on the field that can play competitive baseball  given their orders from above. The core of the current team was in place when they came, in fact. The previous FO also did what they could given their orders from above. The evidence would suggest that Ryan, etc. faced more restrictions than Falvey. TD needs to pull away from the idea that folks such as Gardenhire, Molitor, Ryan, etc. were inferior in any way to Baldelli, Falvey, etc. Baldelli and Falvey are good baseball people as are the others. The current group has less experience than the former but are learning. The Buxton conversation and the challenges of this offseason will test Falvey. A more important question concerns the view from above Falvey. The Twins cannot make the moves needed if the budget falls below $120 million and it may be set considerably lower. We just don't know. 

    The premise of the post of the post is arguably correct. If Buxton goes, there is virtually no way the Twins are competitive for the next five years unless the budget suddenly goes to the $145-160 million range. A budget of that size changes the entire narrative. Buxton goes though and the core is broken. 

    Lastly, I want to note that we still don't know whether Buxton actually wants to remain with the Twins. We also don't know what value Falvey places on Buxton. Those are two important answers to a puzzle. What tolerance does Twins Territory have for a rebuild? My guess - very little.

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    Cody, this is the essential question now.  Resign Bux to a long term extension or not.  The whole offseason depends on resolution of this question.  If we fans can understand this, you can be sure management understands this, too, which is why significant FA signings/ trade speculation, etc. are just hollow hopes.

    While it is still too soon to predict which direction this FO intends to go, there was one revealing statement by Falvey in the Rosenthal article on resigning Buxton that  is most illuminating:

    "At this stage of the offseason, we’re still just navigating our strategy and planning and trying to understand what’s available to us and what the market looks like on all periods."

    Now we all know this guy is a great spin doctor, but the fact he was quoted just this week that they were still navigating strategy is pretty shocking.  Wouldn't a responsible organization have decided prior to opening of the FA signing period that either they had to sign Buxton as a base for retooling the roster in order to return to contention in 2022 or not signing him resulting in a complete rebuild?  There is no logical middle ground here.  The fact they haven't yet moved on Buxton indicates they will be hamstrung in making significant trades or signings until the Buxton issue is settled, resulting in the usual dumpster dive after all the dust has settled this offseason. 

    I think most of us at TD are stunned by this lack of resolve, but we shouldn't be.  The history of this org. points to acceptance of mediocrity by ownership satisfied with sporadic contention, but clueless on taking the next step.  Falvey seems the perfect hire for perpetuating JP's reluctance to take the necessary risks to win.  So those of us left in the Twins fandom can look forward to another rebuild led by the Wonder Boys or some clone thereof.  As a 60 + year fan of the franchise, I am now more pessimistic than ever in both the short and long term prospects for this franchise so long as the Pohlad family is in charge.

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    I can already feel the arrows piercing me as I write this, but here goes:  can we STOP with the narrative that the Twins slide off a cliff into oblivion if we don't have a player who has played less than half the games in his career?  The Yankees won 92 games last year with BRETT GARDNER as their CF for 100+ games, and the Twins won 101 in '19 with Buxton in the game just over half the games (87).  It is indeed one of the most important positions on a team; SS and Catcher come to mind as well, and Buxton mans it the best when he is healthy.  But the concept that the Twins can't compete with Baltimore unless we have one center fielder for half a season (or even a whole season), and no one can fill the void, is just a little too far out for me.  It would be nice to get him signed, but I also wonder how much he (and Berrios as well, in hindsight) truly wants to be here for his career.  Everyone talks a great game when negotiations are in full gear, but most go where the money is in the end, and Buck knows the money is there for the taking in a year.  I agree with tony&rodney across the board in that this FO is no better (or worse) than the last one.  I have said it before, and I will say it again, the cupboards were not that bare when this group walked in.  It is ownership, from father to son (just as it was from father to son in the Griffin family) that puts a number on a budget, and this FO has the same parameters as the last one.  JP and Falvine all give us a lot of gibberish about having money when it is needed, etc. etc. etc., but none of them gives a straight answer to a straight question.  Ever.  So we can only guess what is going on, and I fear that this contract, after the Donaldson one, for a player who hasn't proven he can stay on the field, may be too much for JP.  But I just don't believe that it is the end of the franchise as we know it if we have to let go.  If Buxton goes, sell 'em all.  Just accept another 100 loss season.  Sorry, I don't accept that, and still believe pitching is first on their list.  We can be competitive, at least in this division, with the right pieces on the pitching staff, so I will reserve judgment on this FO and JP until that is decided one way or the other, although I do have to admit I am not holding my breath.  Just as when they came in, the cupboards are not that bare now either, and it is their job to complete the roster.  If they do, they should get a raise; if they don't, they should go.  But they don't get a pass, or get fired on what happens with Buxton (or Berrios).  Everyone knew it was going to be a crap shoot with these two when it came to extensions.  Buck knows JP as well as we do; let's just hope he really does want to stay here and will be willing to get it done.  But if he doesn't, we will live.  

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    Wasn't that long ago that the Wild was days from training camp with their best player unsigned.  Heck, sounded to the public that he wasn't even in the U.S.  Then one morning the G.M. got a phone call from the agent saying, get on a plane and come to Florida so the three of us can sit down and talk.  The result was that he was under contract two days later and in training camp when it started.  

    The top dogs in the Twins FO need to pick up the phone and say we're coming to Georgia tomorrow, can we talk.  Then sit down, discuss how each side is viewing the situation and make a deal before leaving.  

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    Has anyone considered that Buxton may want to prove himself in 2022 in order to get a better contract in FA after the season?   Not a slight on the Twins, but consider what logically could be “reality.”

    I suspect that Byron likely views himself as a victim of freak injuries (2021’s wrist injury) and “running into walls” injuries that he believes he is now able to avoid as a smarter, seasoned, veteran player.  However, the Twins can’t afford to let him “play it out” (and join next year’s off-season bidding war).   The Twins are more likely to get a good return this offseason than mid season 2022.   If they are contending in midseason 2022, the option to trade Buxton is off the table completely.  Now is the the time to make an effort to sign him, but upon being rejected - TRADE BUCk.  That may be REbuilding; it may be REtooling: but it is likely to be REality.  

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    San Francisco helped us out once before when they wanted AJ.

    They need a CF, Taylor Roger's brother is there, and Longoria has a year left on his contract.

    What about Buxton, Rogers, Donaldson to SF for Longoria, a MLB OF that can play CF, and a handful of prospects?

    That should keep the cheap Pohlad family happy without Carl turning over in his grave ....

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    2 hours ago, strumdatjag said:

    Has anyone considered that Buxton may want to prove himself in 2022 in order to get a better contract in FA after the season?   Not a slight on the Twins, but consider what logically could be “reality.”

    I suspect that Byron likely views himself as a victim of freak injuries (2021’s wrist injury) and “running into walls” injuries that he believes he is now able to avoid as a smarter, seasoned, veteran player.  However, the Twins can’t afford to let him “play it out” (and join next year’s off-season bidding war).   The Twins are more likely to get a good return this offseason than mid season 2022.   If they are contending in midseason 2022, the option to trade Buxton is off the table completely.  Now is the the time to make an effort to sign him, but upon being rejected - TRADE BUCk.  That may be REbuilding; it may be REtooling: but it is likely to be REality.  

    If Buxton knew he'd be healthy, have a great year and the CBA would work out well for the players, I'm sure he'd elect not to sign an extension right now. There are a lot of things Buxton might consider at the moment. The same reasons it's so very hard to figure out what a fair offer or his trade value actually looks like.

     

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    4 hours ago, bean5302 said:

    If you think Buxton is so awesome and important, why would he only bring a couple fringe prospects?

    I wouldn’t say I think Buxton is “so awesome and important”.  I think he has the potential to have a great year and would invest the 10 million or whatever it takes to see it in a Twins uniform.  And if other teams think he is an injury risk, they may not offer more than fringe prospects.

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    5 hours ago, bean5302 said:

    Buxton has produced less than 2.0 fWAR per season across his career. He was under 2.5 fWAR until the last 10 games of the season this past year. A player like that doesn't make the difference between retool and rebuild. What they replace Buxton with will make the difference.

    Are you really arguing that the current version is anywhere close to what we saw as a rookie?

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    40 minutes ago, Reptevia said:

    I love all the people on here. “We can’t trade Buxton, his value has never been lower”!  Same people: “If they don’t give Buxton $30m+ AAV, the FO is crazy and should be fired. 

    Love is a good thing. Thank you.

    I am not aware of anyone offering a contract for $30 million per year. The main point in comments has been that a base of near $11 million would be accompanied by incentives. The incentives would raise the salary, yes, but it would also mean that Buxton is playing which has been a winning proposition for the Twins. Those who look back and dwell on the injuries have an argument to make and are fine with going on without Buxton. Those who have watched Buxton grow as a player and see his potential would like to see that potential shine in a Twins uniform. Both sides are entitled to their opinions as fans of who or who not to watch. I do believe TD comments should ease off the FO who are just following orders from above them. Still, the comments by Falvey this week were weak, poorly phrased, at best; not his best day.

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    1 hour ago, KirbyDome89 said:

    Are you really arguing that the current version is anywhere close to what we saw as a rookie?

    No. As a rookie Buxton produced 0.1 fWAR. Then 1.5, then 3.6, then -0.3, then 2.7, then 1.2 before this past season... where again, until the last 10 games of the year, he was like 2.5 fWAR. 

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    If the Twins can resign Buxton and want to keep him on the field, why not look at him being the DH even though he is an elite center fielder. If he won't sign, I'd get at least 4 players for him with 2 pitchers and 2 hitters and 2 at the major league level. Shipping him to the Mets looks like the best possible scenario right now.

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    all these numbers, small letters, large letters, decimal points, plusses and minuses are making my head explode.

    Lets not trade Buxton. His injury history might negate the return twins need to replace him. But more than that, (when healthy) he is one of the most exciting players in MLB. Those players are in short supply. Yeah, many are talented, but few can dominate a game. Buck can. He can do it all. And right now he wears OUR uni. Fans love watching him play. Baseball is still entertainment...that people pay to see. (or not) I see Buck as more valuable to the Twins than to other teams. Will they fall apart if traded? No. Will they be less enjoyable to watch? Absolutely. Are they more likely to contend if he stays and can play at least 100 games? Probably. (will there even be a season in 2022? We'll be finding out in the coming weeks)

    Superstars on a team don't guarantee a championship. But it can help and make fringey teams at least watchable. (Angels have been terrible despite Trout. Cubs never won with Banks. Expos couldn't win with Vladdy...or a boatload of other stars for that matter. There are others. Conversely some superstars transform losers into teams fans will return to watching. Gretzky saved hockey in LA. Anyway, I hope Twins keep their center fielder. And he ultimately leads them to the World Series.

     

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    It wasn't that long ago - even before the concussions - that this board lit up daily with complaints about how much Joe Mauer was being paid, and how it limited the team's ability to pay other players, including free agents. Their payroll situation looks vastly different if they sign Buxton for $20M per for 7, 8 or 9 years, and if he's injured during that time, my guess is that this board will again light up with complaints about how "the Buxton deal prevents the Twins from competing". I as much as anyone else would hate to see him leave, but I understand that Falvine are under pressure from the public (and, it sounds like, the owner) to resign Byron.

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    It's true that if the Twins trade Buxton, they are admitting to not being competitive in 2022. But it won't be because they trade Buxton. If they are not able to find three quality and experienced starting pitchers, it is not realistic to assume they have a shot at the playoffs...probably not even a .500 record. There's a significant chance that they'll simply lose out on most if not all quality experienced starters. If the reality is that 2022 is a lost cause anyway, does that change our view of a potential Buxton trade?
     
    I think we should consider a new term in addition to "Rebuild" and "Retool". "Rebuild" suggests a team is tearing down to the studs, restocking a depleted farm system, and trading away high priced established stars in their prime in the hopes of returning to competition in 4-5 years. "Retool" suggests a team was recently competitive (meaning you weren't in last place this year) that's shuffling the deck chairs a bit to address a need or maybe up the ante due to a competitor in your division on the rise. Though there are elements of both that apply to the Twins, I think the FO believes they are in a unique situation.
     
    Consider the following:
     
    Position
    Kiriloff  (1B?)
    Arraez (2B?)
    Miranda (3B?)
    Lewis  (SS?)
    Jeffers / Garver (C)
    Larnach (RF?)
    Celestino (CF?)
    Martin (LF?)
    Rooker (DH?)
     
    SP
    Winder
    Balazovic
    Duran
    Sands
    Woods-Richardson
    Ober
    Ryan
    Strotman
     
    RP
    Alcala
    Moran
    Thielbar
     
    That's an awful lot of multi-year controllable major-league-ready (by 2023) talent across every position on the field. Though there are obvious question marks there and some of that talent will take time to establish quality major league effectiveness, regardless, after 2022 no one on that list will, in theory, have anywhere to go or anything left to prove in the minors. They kinda have to be with the Twins in 2023 at some point, or they're gone for one reason or another. If anyone on that list were a bust, it would be seen as a failure of drafting, development, or evaluation from multiple sources...so this is not fringe talent we're pinning our hopes on, even if they are not all current/former Top 100 prospects.
     
    Which means that as we sit here ahead of the 2022 season...everyone on this list below is essentially expendable by 2023 or sooner in the sense that there is a legitimate prospective player ready to take their place:
     
    Polanco (team friendly control)
    Kepler (team friendly control 
    Buxton
    Sano (team friendly control)
    Rogers
    Donaldson
    Maeda (team friendly control)
     
    Whether quantity or quality, what could you add to the 2023-2027 major league roster noted above by trading the 7 (or 6 if you don't count an injured Maeda) players here? A few solid pieces at the very least. With a tiny payroll over those years, what kind of top dollar FA acquisition could you make to supplement a winning team?
     
    FWIW I think the Twins should sign Buxton to a contract of 100mil / 7 years for no other reason than inflation...in 5-7 years 14mil AAV for an average player will be commonplace (seems like it already is!). And I think they should keep Polanco cause he's very good and he and Buxton would be the veteran leaders for a young team. Heck I'm even fine with them signing an expensive FA shortstop now if they can free up the salary space to do it. I'm not in favor of trading big league ready prospects for 1 year of a pitcher (e.g. Manea) just to be mediocre in 2022.
     
    But to circle back to the original point...I don't think that "Rebuild" or "Retool" accurately describe the unique situation the Twins FO believes they are in. And I think 2022 might be a lost cause anyway if all you can scrape together are Pineda and 2 x J.A. Happs. I do know that their decision-making in this moment will define the next 10 years, so though I give them the benefit of the doubt...the pressure is most certainly on.
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    8 hours ago, Markostp said:

    It wasn't that long ago - even before the concussions - that this board lit up daily with complaints about how much Joe Mauer was being paid, and how it limited the team's ability to pay other players, including free agents. Their payroll situation looks vastly different if they sign Buxton for $20M per for 7, 8 or 9 years, and if he's injured during that time, my guess is that this board will again light up with complaints about how "the Buxton deal prevents the Twins from competing". I as much as anyone else would hate to see him leave, but I understand that Falvine are under pressure from the public (and, it sounds like, the owner) to resign Byron.

    JP has publicly stated he wants to extend Buxton, who knows what gets discussed behind closed doors? Pohlads know and understand PR as well as anyone in Minnesota

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    8 hours ago, JYTwinsFan said:
    It's true that if the Twins trade Buxton, they are admitting to not being competitive in 2022. But it won't be because they trade Buxton. If they are not able to find three quality and experienced starting pitchers, it is not realistic to assume they have a shot at the playoffs...probably not even a .500 record. There's a significant chance that they'll simply lose out on most if not all quality experienced starters. If the reality is that 2022 is a lost cause anyway, does that change our view of a potential Buxton trade?
     
    I think we should consider a new term in addition to "Rebuild" and "Retool". "Rebuild" suggests a team is tearing down to the studs, restocking a depleted farm system, and trading away high priced established stars in their prime in the hopes of returning to competition in 4-5 years. "Retool" suggests a team was recently competitive (meaning you weren't in last place this year) that's shuffling the deck chairs a bit to address a need or maybe up the ante due to a competitor in your division on the rise. Though there are elements of both that apply to the Twins, I think the FO believes they are in a unique situation.
     
    Consider the following:
     
    Position
    Kiriloff  (1B?)
    Arraez (2B?)
    Miranda (3B?)
    Lewis  (SS?)
    Jeffers / Garver (C)
    Larnach (RF?)
    Celestino (CF?)
    Martin (LF?)
    Rooker (DH?)
     
    SP
    Winder
    Balazovic
    Duran
    Sands
    Woods-Richardson
    Ober
    Ryan
    Strotman
     
    RP
    Alcala
    Moran
    Thielbar
     
    That's an awful lot of multi-year controllable major-league-ready (by 2023) talent across every position on the field. Though there are obvious question marks there and some of that talent will take time to establish quality major league effectiveness, regardless, after 2022 no one on that list will, in theory, have anywhere to go or anything left to prove in the minors. They kinda have to be with the Twins in 2023 at some point, or they're gone for one reason or another. If anyone on that list were a bust, it would be seen as a failure of drafting, development, or evaluation from multiple sources...so this is not fringe talent we're pinning our hopes on, even if they are not all current/former Top 100 prospects.
     
    Which means that as we sit here ahead of the 2022 season...everyone on this list below is essentially expendable by 2023 or sooner in the sense that there is a legitimate prospective player ready to take their place:
     
    Polanco (team friendly control)
    Kepler (team friendly control 
    Buxton
    Sano (team friendly control)
    Rogers
    Donaldson
    Maeda (team friendly control)
     
    Whether quantity or quality, what could you add to the 2023-2027 major league roster noted above by trading the 7 (or 6 if you don't count an injured Maeda) players here? A few solid pieces at the very least. With a tiny payroll over those years, what kind of top dollar FA acquisition could you make to supplement a winning team?
     
    FWIW I think the Twins should sign Buxton to a contract of 100mil / 7 years for no other reason than inflation...in 5-7 years 14mil AAV for an average player will be commonplace (seems like it already is!). And I think they should keep Polanco cause he's very good and he and Buxton would be the veteran leaders for a young team. Heck I'm even fine with them signing an expensive FA shortstop now if they can free up the salary space to do it. I'm not in favor of trading big league ready prospects for 1 year of a pitcher (e.g. Manea) just to be mediocre in 2022.
     
    But to circle back to the original point...I don't think that "Rebuild" or "Retool" accurately describe the unique situation the Twins FO believes they are in. And I think 2022 might be a lost cause anyway if all you can scrape together are Pineda and 2 x J.A. Happs. I do know that their decision-making in this moment will define the next 10 years, so though I give them the benefit of the doubt...the pressure is most certainly on.

    Really good post! Well written/articulated

    I agree with you of the enormous opportunity in front of the FO and the risks involved for this offseason.

    I think about what it might look like trading Buxton or Garver (or both) for prospects that could be a package for Frankie Montas? The As don’t want Buxton or Garver, but do have pitching to spare and want to reduce payroll.

    A trade like that and a free agent like Ray on a 5+ year 100+ mil contract, 2022 would hurt less and ‘23 might be given a head start because more of the hitters in your scenario have big league experience than the pitchers.

    I would classify it as a rebuild (to Cody’s point) but a quicker rebuild than the Orioles saga.

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