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)?
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.