When Minnesota was pondering whether they should offer Byron Buxton a contract or not, it was likely always a discussion of how much and not should we or should we not. On the open market, if he’d been a pillar of health, someone with Buxton’s talent would’ve seen a payday well over $300 million. The caveat is that he is not often healthy, and that’s where opportunity swung towards the Twins.
For a franchise that’s been synonymous with small spending at times, or criticized for allowing their stars to walk, Buxton was only within the realm of possibility because of his injuries. Negotiating solely with the team he knows rather than testing the open market was, in part, because of the worry that injury may play a factor before the discussions got started.
There was no point in which an incentive-laden contract would hurt Minnesota’s future spending capabilities, and something as paltry as $14 million annually was bound to be surpassed in short order. Well, welcome to short order.
Minnesota is just 67 games into their 2022 season, of which Buxton has played just 49 games. He has an .897 OPS and has already equaled his career-high in homers. He remains a defensive superstar, even while moonlighting as a designated hitter, and is already valued having been worth 2.3 fWAR for the Twins. Fangraphs puts a valuation on WAR and has Buxton at $18.5 million. He’s twice been worth more than $33 million in a season, and even with the decreased workload, it’s conceivable he’ll surpass that value this season.
As Buxton's playing time continues to be managed by the Twins, the expectation is that he’ll wind up playing something near 110 games. Although you’d certainly like to see him in the lineup more often than that, a significant contribution is still felt and he could be fresher for the games that matter in the postseason.
The incentives Buxton has included in his contract will always push him to get more from himself. They are largely award-based, and votes for an MVP award will likely be hard to come by if he’s not on the field a more significant amount of time. That said, it’s clear that there’s no letdown from the days off, and each time he’s out there he’s making the most of it.
In a way, this season is largely reflective of the contract Minnesota gave their superstar. Buxton didn’t land the exorbitant payday because of availability, but he was still rewarded handsomely, and in turn, does so for the Twins each time he’s on the field. There was very little way for the deal to go pear-shaped, and we could be talking about a guy that’s nearly doubling up the value of his paycheck with a few years left on it.