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  • Offseason Status Update: Buxton Locked Up, MLB Locked Out


    Nick Nelson

    Last week, Major League Baseball's Collective Bargain Agreement officially expired, triggering a lockout and dousing the excitement of a stunningly active early offseason. 

    While the Twins weren't major players in that action, they were able to get in a couple of key moves before the clock struck midnight, so fans aren't left completely hanging in the wind. 

    Let's cover where things stand heading into this dark and desolate winter.

    Image courtesy of Mike DiNovo and Tommy Gilligan, USA Today Sports

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    BIG BUX: Buxton Signs $100M Extension

    Not so long ago, reports cast a bleak light on Byron Buxton's future with the Twins. Extension talks appeared to be mired in a futile standstill. A trade sounded more likely than not. 

    Fanbase morale was nosediving, if my interactions with others and my own internal feelings were any indication.

    Alas, to their immense credit, ownership and the front office got it done. Last Wednesday, Buxton inked a historic seven-year, $100 million contract that will keep him in Minnesota through 2028. 

    He said all along he wanted to stick with the club that drafted and developed him, in the place he'd come to call home. Last week Buxton made good on his word.

    It's a unique deal that balances risk with reward for both sides. While the guaranteed base numbers are relatively low ($9M in 2022 and $15M in the following years), Buxton can boost his annual salaries – modestly by staying on the field, and massively by ranking near the top of AL MVP voting. Talk about betting on yourself.

    We all know Buxton is an MVP-caliber player when on the field. For teams, the luxury of needing to pay for only a fraction of that potential if it doesn't come to fruition is basically unheard of. 

    This was truly a no-brainer for the Twins, and a vitally-needed salve for a wounded fanbase. While sticking to their strategic scruples, the front office managed to craft a creative framework that Buxton can feel good about. All he really asked for was a two-way commitment, which came in the form of a no-trade clause. 

    There's simply no knocking this amazing deal. Beyond the sheer baseball logic of such a team-friendly arrangement, there are deeper factors at play. Buxton is a world-class athlete and person whose actions convey his character. His loyalty to this franchise is no lip service, in spite of past friction and a surrounding roster that's currently in disrepair. 

    To let such a homegrown generational talent and spectacular ballpark attraction blossom elsewhere, despite this expression of loyalty, would've been unforgivable. The risk that Buxton comes up short of delivering on the guaranteed value of this contract is vastly outweighed by the specter of him making everyone forget about David Ortiz (and not in a good way).

    The Twins needed to get this done and they did. It was such a pivotal and overwhelming big-picture priority for me that – and I know some will disagree – I won't be able to view this offseason as a complete failure regardless of what else happens from here. 

    Twins Add Bundy to Fill Rotation Spot

    With all that said, the state of the pitching staff is a proverbial fly in the ointment. 

    As Thursday's lockout loomed, teams went into a free agent frenzy for starting pitching, and the Twins were mostly left out in the cold. 

    Mostly, but not entirely. 

    The club did sign right-hander Dylan Bundy to hopefully fill a spot in the middle or back of their rotation. As lower-tier flyers go, he's a respectable one – still under 30 with an intriguing history. Formerly a top draft pick and top prospect, Bundy flashed his upside in 2020 before turning in a total clunker last year. 

    While your mileage may vary on him as a player, no one can deny the contract is interesting. Bundy will earn $4 million next year, with an $11 million team option for 2023. Much like the Buxton deal, here we have a player betting on himself in a bold way. 

    If Bundy can bounce back and pitch well enough to sell the Twins on picking up his option, he can more than triple the total value of the deal. Motivation will not be an issue.

    In many ways, this is a very typical veteran pitching target for the Twins front office, so we probably shouldn't be too surprised. Bundy has some success in his track record, but wasn't in high demand, in large part because of his proneness to home runs. We've seen this story before. 

    In some cases, the Twins have seen good results with this approach (Michael Pineda and Jake Odorizzi). In other cases, not so good (J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker). We'll see which way this one goes, but to suggest it's inherently doomed hints at a lot of recency bias. 

    Regardless, Minnesota has plenty of work left to do on the pitching front. With the upper tiers of the free agency mostly cleared out, they'll almost have to turn to the trade market in order to make at least one truly impactful splash in the rotation.

    Newly re-signed Jake Cave was dropped from the 40-man roster to make room for Bundy.

    Minaya, Coulombe, Megill Non-tendered

    The bullpen, too, still needs plenty of attention. Minnesota is keeping its options open for relief pitching, and cleared some room last week on the roster. Juan Minaya and Danny Coulombe were both arbitration-eligible and slated to earn about $1 million next year. Instead, they were both non-tendered, although Coulombe was quickly re-signed to a minor-league deal.

    Also non-tendered and re-signed was right-hander Trevor Megill, who had been claimed off waivers the same day. It sounds like this was merely a procedural move to keep him in the organization but off the 40-man. His big fastball will likely get a shot in spring training.

    Joining Coulombe and Megill as likely spring non-roster invites is righty Jake Faria, who signed a minors deal. Faria was once highly thought of as a prospect in the Rays system, and had a nice rookie season back in 2017, but hasn't had much success to speak of since. I suspect the Twins are keying on his split-finger fastball, which held opponents to a .156 average and generated a 33.8% whiff rate amidst his struggles last year, while being thrown only 20% of the time.

    Rounding out the arbitration picture, the Twins did tender a contract to Taylor Rogers (along with Mitch Garver and Luis Arraez), while striking deals with Tyler Duffey ($3.8M), Caleb Thielbar ($1.3M) and Jharel Cotton ($700K).

    Almost $50 Million Left to Spend?

    Whenever baseball ramps up again, the Twins will theoretically have quite a bit of spending money in hand, unless they intend to cut down payroll dramatically from where it stood in 2021. As you can see in the updated payroll projection below, they're currently about $48 million short of that figure. (Salaries for Garver, Arraez, and Rogers are still estimates since no agreements have yet been reached.)

    payroll12521.png

    The 40-man roster has two open spots following the addition of Bundy, and removals of Minaya, Coulombe, and Cave. 

    roster12521.png

    The Twins still have several critical holes to address, so they'll need all the flexibility they can get. This front office seems to operate best as stakes heighten in the late weeks of the offseason (many of their biggest moves have come in late January and February) so maybe they'll be in their element during a potential crunch time for roster-building if the lockout ends a few weeks ahead of spring training. 

    Then again, with the top-shelf supply from the free agent pitching and shortstop markets getting decimated over the past couple weeks, the Twins have really seen their spectrum of options shrink. The work is going to be cut out for them.

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     The Twins signed Buck, What a great relief to thousands of Twins fans. It simply had to be done. Tony O. and Kitty and Buck O'Neil are going to the Hall of Fame, "The snail's on the thorn;  God's in His heaven - All's right with the world.!" Thank you FO and Hall of Fame Early Baseball and Golden Days Committees and Robert Browning.

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    $48M left and here is how to spend it.

    Add Miranda and Celestino to the roster as DH and 4th OF.  Add a rule 5 excellent glove SS and ride him all year.  Fills the position players and you still have $46M remaining.  Sign Kikuchi and Pineda for the starting rotation and Tepera and McHugh as relievers.  Then trade prospects for a good young arm to fill out the roster.  Easey Peasey.

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    29 minutes ago, terrydactyls said:

    Add a rule 5 excellent glove SS and ride him all year. 

    Oof.  I just got done looking at this idea posed in another thread, and when you get down to actual names it looks scary.  Is there a definitive list of who is available in the Rule 5? Or, if you have some specific players to propose then it could be worth discussing.  But guys with good gloves who spent their 2021 hitting .220 at high-A could be a disaster in the majors in 2022.

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    I agree that the Buxton contract made me feel a lot better about the off season. Not a lot of room on the 40 man roster for how many free agents we need to sign with the 48 Million. I do not see as many easily removable guys as most years.  May have to trade a couple off the 40 man first.

    Edited by Sconnie
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    7 hours ago, terrydactyls said:

    $48M left and here is how to spend it.

    Add Miranda and Celestino to the roster as DH and 4th OF.  Add a rule 5 excellent glove SS and ride him all year.  Fills the position players and you still have $46M remaining.  Sign Kikuchi and Pineda for the starting rotation and Tepera and McHugh as relievers.  Then trade prospects for a good young arm to fill out the roster.  Easey Peasey.

    The rule 5 was cancelled, not delayed this year.

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    I thought I had read that the Rule 5 was off for now, pending the new CBA.  I have read nothing to suggest that there is a push to remove it entirely.  The Players certainly would not want that removed, and not sure the owners are drawing a line in the sand on that particular issue.  All evidence points to it staying in the new CBA that I have seen....

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    Damn shame that there couldn't be more joy to go with how happy Buxton appeared at his signing press conference.  

    Instead of happiness for all Twins fans, baseball shut down with the Twins having done very little to help him reach his #1 goal next year.  Yes, they appear to have money to spend, just not certain what is left to spend it on.

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    No news is no news,

    Texas was able to sign 3 free agents of note. So much for bad teams not being able to sign free agents. They still might not be a good team

    I wish I would have saved the Falvey quote about big changes going to be made. It takes 2 entities in baseball to make changes. The free agents are not being very interested in Minnesota. Nobody is making trades. It will be either a wild post lockout or a long season. 

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    Unless the Twins sign Correa or Story, I don't see a logical way they're spending that money.

    Kershaw and Rodon are the only two pitchers who would eat up enough of the budget to make a dent, Kershaw isn't coming here, and no one thinks Rodon is getting more than one year; maybe an option. So while the Twins could certainly sign him, there is no combination of free agents to go along with Rodon to make this team a contender in 2022.

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    2 hours ago, nicksaviking said:

    Unless the Twins sign Correa or Story, I don't see a logical way they're spending that money.

    Kershaw and Rodon are the only two pitchers who would eat up enough of the budget to make a dent, Kershaw isn't coming here, and no one thinks Rodon is getting more than one year; maybe an option. So while the Twins could certainly sign him, there is no combination of free agents to go along with Rodon to make this team a contender in 2022.

    If the $48M is around what Falvine are looking at having available still I hope they come out of the gates hot and sign Story and Rodon. Story for 5-6 years 20-23M (25M if needed), and Rodon for 1 or 2 years at 15-20M.

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    So far Pineda is still available and there hasn't been much movement on the trade front for starting pitchers.  The Twins can still sign Pineda.  They did sign their rebound candidate in Bundy.  U was thinking Kluber ..... On trade Bassitt makes the most sense as he will cost the least od the big names and we should have Oakland throw in their SS to bring the cost down even more.  Plus Bassitt will be a reasonable cost extention candidate.  3 year 45 million give or take. 

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    2 hours ago, chpettit19 said:

    If the $48M is around what Falvine are looking at having available still I hope they come out of the gates hot and sign Story and Rodon. Story for 5-6 years 20-23M (25M if needed), and Rodon for 1 or 2 years at 15-20M.

    Well I've certainly had enough of the quantity approach. I'd rather go quality.

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    16 hours ago, terrydactyls said:

    $48M left and here is how to spend it.

    Add Miranda and Celestino to the roster as DH and 4th OF.  Add a rule 5 excellent glove SS and ride him all year.  Fills the position players and you still have $46M remaining.  Sign Kikuchi and Pineda for the starting rotation and Tepera and McHugh as relievers.  Then trade prospects for a good young arm to fill out the roster.  Easey Peasey.

    Any thoughts on the good young arm to trade for?

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    21 hours ago, TheLeviathan said:

    7 more years of @Nick Nelsonpreseason articles predicting a Buxton MVP year!  We're going to break that "Joe Mauer's got New "Insert Gadgety Thing Here" record the Star Tribune set yet!  (All in good fun! Nice article)

    😂 I’m pretty sure the only player I ever fully dedicated a preseason MVP prediction article to is Miguel Sano (2016, let’s not talk about it). But the sentiment is valid for sure. 

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