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  • For Better or For Worse: Twins Success Tied to Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa's Health

    Cody Christie

    For any team, the health of top players will be crucial to their success. That adage is even more true for the Twins because it's clear that the team's long-term outcome is tied to the health of the club's biggest stars.

    Image courtesy of Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

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    Twins fans can take a breath after the Carlos Correa free-agent saga ended with him returning to Minnesota. There will be fans that feel that Minnesota was Correa's fallback option. Other fans are going to be frustrated by the way the process played out over the last month. Still, Correa is signed with the Twins and will be part of this organization for a minimum of six more seasons. His process of ending up in Minnesota can be an afterthought, especially if it leads to more on-field success for the Twins. 

    Correa and Byron Buxton have been tied to one another since they were amateurs leading into the 2012 MLB Draft. Their bond has grown over the years from the draft process to playing in the Midwest League and culminating with the 2022 season. Now, the Twins superstar duo will attempt to end a playoff losing streak that stretches back to when they were each in elementary school. 

    The elephant in the room is the long-term health of both players. Buxton's health concerns have been well documented in recent years, and it's one of the main reasons Minnesota signed him to a team-friendly deal. Buxton and the Twins did everything they could to keep him on the field last season, resulting in his first All-Star selection and his third season with 4.0 WAR or more. Unfortunately, he was limited to fewer than 100 games and played only 19 games in the second half. Minnesota knew Buxton provides value while playing fewer games, but keeping him on the field will be a focus for the club over the next decade. 

    Correa joined the Twins last winter, and plenty was known about his injury history. During his big-league career, Correa has missed time with hand injuries and back issues. His biggest long-term injury concern has become his lower leg, which was surgically repaired in 2014. Correa's contracts with the Giants and Mets didn't get done because of concerns about how this injury would hold up over the next decade. It is important to note that Correa's guaranteed portion of his contract is significantly fewer years than what was offered by San Francisco and New York. Any long-term deal comes with risks, and the Twins and their doctors are comfortable with the injury risk involved with both of these players because of what they bring to the team. 

    Buxton and Correa show leadership in very different ways. Buxton has become more vocal in recent years, but he has always been a leader by example. He also spends significant time before games getting himself ready, so he can't always be around the other players in the clubhouse. He leads through his play on the field and can only do that if he is preparing his body for the rigors of a 162-game season. 

    Correa's persona is to be front and center because he is a natural-born leader. Many of the players in the Twins clubhouse look up to him, and that trend will continue with younger players being added to Minnesota's roster. Correa won the Twins' "Media Good Guy" Award for his clubhouse leadership and willingness to address the press no matter the circumstances. Together with Buxton, they form a perfect personality duo to lead the Twins into the future. 

    Both players are not getting any younger. Buxton may lose a step in the outfield, and he will eventually need to move to a corner outfield position. Correa will continue to play shortstop, but he will likely move to third base in the back half of his contract. Minnesota sports fans have dealt with heartache in the past, but the Twins hope Buxton and Correa can avoid injury concerns and help the team keep their winning window open as long as possible. 

    Are you worried about injuries with Buxton and Correa? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    If Buxton is healthy enough to play 120-130 games the Twins run away with the Division.

    But this is rarified air, if not a unicorn.

    I am not a concerned about C4's health.  Unless he gets plunked in the hand again.

    I think it would be great for the Twins and MLB in general if Buxton can stay healthy and produce for a full season along the numbers he has been teasing.  What was it 4WAR in 50% of the games?  8 WAR and you are in the MVP conversation.

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    Sure, absolutely the fortunes of this team will swing on the health of our two best players. That’s not unusual, but it’s fair to say the Twins are relatively more long on those two players’ health than other clubs might be with their two best players.

    Having said that, we shouldn’t look past the health of the three players comprising the core of the FO’s 2023 strategy: Gray, Mahle and Maeda.  If those three are healthy - let’s say, pitching combined over 450 innings - this team could go a long way even if Buxton and/or Correa only play 80 games apiece.

    Said another way, if Buxton and Correa each played 130+ games and those three throw less than a total of 325 innings (and, btw, that unfortunately is not an unreasonable expectation by any means), Buxton and Correa’s good health won’t matter. We do not have the starter or BP depth to overcome that. That’s why it’s important to get one more solid, reliable innings eater starter. 

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    also, I take exception to how this was worded:

    "His biggest long-term injury concern has become his lower leg, which was surgically repaired in 2014."

    It has never been an issue as a player in the Majors.  Didn't this happen while he was in the minors?  

    I think the issue with Carlos that should concern you was his back issues.  But I think he addressed that with his conditioning and preparation.

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    I feel like the FO is taking the gamble in the next 6 years they can have at least 1 or 2 seasons both play 120+ games and are available in the playoffs with a decent to good young group of supporting players to make a deep run. With both of them the way they've been I don't hate the idea of it. With the payroll they have it's probably the most likely scenario to bring a championship. Obviously pitching has been an issue but there's enough depth to the rotation its not impossible to have 3 or 4 guys develop into worthwhile starters in that 6 year window. 

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    With no salary cap in baseball, this is the pathway for the Twins to win a championship. It's not fun or sometimes fair, but taking these gambles on elite players in free agency finally gives us the chance for young cores to have better roster balance. Next step is actually investing in pitching.

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    I continue to believe that the most serious injury concern the Twins have is not either of these two, rather, Alex Kirilloff.  Yes, Buxton playing 130 games likely puts the Twins in the playoffs.  But if AK can play 130+ games I am confident he will be one of the better hitters in baseball.  Fortunately, early reports are that he is swinging the bat pain free.

    An offense with Arraez, Buxton, Correa, Polo and AK will put the Twins into the playoffs.  Not worried about the pitching because I believe they are at least 8 deep with starters who are or will be competent big league starters.  

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    6 minutes ago, roger said:

    I continue to believe that the most serious injury concern the Twins have is not either of these two, rather, Alex Kirilloff.  Yes, Buxton playing 130 games likely puts the Twins in the playoffs.  But if AK can play 130+ games I am confident he will be one of the better hitters in baseball.  Fortunately, early reports are that he is swinging the bat pain free.

    I think this logic has some merit.  I still think Buxton and Correa are ultimately more important, but the production of lesser players like AK are extremely important for this team and where it eventually finds itself at the end of the season.  I think AK is most certainly in that conversation.

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    Buxton is concerning, very much so because he started 51 games in CF last season. I'm hopeful that Byron is ready to escape the torrent of injuries to actually stay on the field. He is still young, athletic, and strong.

    Correa has to stay focused on maintaining the routine to keep the back issues away. Otherwise he is good to go.

    I agree with those who mention the availability of Kirilloff for the duration of the year, and add Jorge Polanco. Still, the two stars are Buxton and Correa, picks #1 and #2 with the talent and skills to attract attention across the country. Their presence is key, for sure.

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    This could be the case with any team. Take the top two players and play them both half a season. Chances are they are no longer serious contenders. However if our top two players can give us 130 or more games each and be healthy for playoffs. Lookout!

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    I'm not knocking the importance of Buxton and Correa but in my opinion... the success of this team probably depends more on the bad performance at the bottom than the great performance at the top. 

    If Gallo and Kepler are the same as the past two years and still get plenty of playing time... we will struggle no matter what Correa and Buxton do.

    Buxton and Correa can't carry this team just like Trout, Ohtani and Rendon couldn't carry the Angels.  

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