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  • What Defines Success for Byron Buxton in 2023?


    Ted Schwerzler

    Last November, prior to the MLB owners locking out their players and ultimately delaying the 2022 season, the Minnesota Twins paid Byron Buxton. It was a necessary move that would always come with additional questions. Now coming off an up-and-down 2022 season, what defines his success in 2023?

     

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    There was truly never a point in which the Minnesota Twins could afford not to pay Byron Buxton. The only reason they had an opportunity to get a superstar talent for only $100 million is because of his injuries. The organization was given the opportunity to cash in on a steep discount, and they were able to do so without having to bid against anyone else.

    Signed to the seven-year extension, Buxton and his family were able to settle in knowing that Minnesota would remain home. On the field that produced an outcome totaling 92 games played and an .833 OPS. His 135 OPS+ made it the fourth straight season in which he’s been above league average offensively. Add in his continued otherworldly defense and Minnesota has to be happy with what they got in year one.

     

    Ultimately though, as has been the case throughout his career, Buxton’s 2022 campaign was marred by a single injury. After going down on the bases in Fenway Park, his knee never recovered from the early-season incident. He routinely needed fluid drained from his knee, and while there was concern regarding a possible infection, a shutdown wound up coming near the tail end of the season. Now with surgery behind him, what does a successful 2023 look like?

    Talking with him during the Twins unveiling of their new uniforms, Buxton was upbeat regarding his 2022 season. While he would have liked to play more, he knows how competitive he was when available, and did point to his 92 games being the most he’s played in years (since 2017 to be exact). Asking someone like Buxton to dial back intensity would be effectively robbing part of their competitive advantage, and it’s certainly not an exercise the Twins appear set on exploring.

    Bringing in new head athletic trainer Nick Paparesta, Minnesota is hoping that there are ways to keep more guys on the field. After dealing with such a rash of injuries last season, a goal of prevention and strength training will certainly be implemented during the offseason. For Buxton though, it’s about getting back out there.

    Knowing how important his presence is on the field, Buxton is looking forward to an offseason that has him continuing to progress through the necessary steps toward a return. Confidence has never been something the Twins star has lacked and playing at an MVP level early on last season, even while hurt, should continue to drive his performance in 2023 and beyond.

    At this point in his career, Minnesota fans have seen the production. There’s no question as to whether Buxton is a star anymore, that’s a given. Success may come in the form of availability, and while that’s not something he can control entirely, seeing that 140 game total from 2017 again should result in a whole host of MVP votes when the dust settles. For the Twins, that type of availability may be enough for the first postseason victory in decades as well.

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    In the 5 years since his last full season of 2017 he has averaged 55 games a year in CF:

    • 2018 - 27
    • 2019 - 78
    • 2020 - Short season so can't compare
    • 2021 - 60
    • 2022 - 54

    He may be a 4 fWAR player based on the 54 games in CF last year plus his DH time but his lack of health contributed to the extended amount of playing time for Cave and Celestino in CF which in my mind had negative value for the team.  For 2023 to be a success for Buxton he needs to find a way to be healthy enough to play 100 games in CF and be available for the playoffs should the Twins make them.  

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    If he could play 120 games in CF / 30 at DH and hit 40 HRs with 40 SB would be a good start.  50/50 would be better.  In all seriousness though for 105 million don’t we need 15-20 WAR over the life of the contract to break even and we got more than 4 last year so… I would be happy with a 5+ WAR season as I think it’s prudent to start the contract ahead of pace in case the back end is not so lucky ? also would like to see Buxton hit 30-40 WAR during the contract and get some of those MVP incentives in his contract.

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    Not sure anymore.  We have had this question every year and every year an injury happens.  His value is more in CF than DH - He needs to get his average up, he needs to be in the field.

    I do not wish him to steal bases anymore.  Every base is another nick in his physical being. 

    I just don't have any expectations, I would like to be pleasantly surprised. 

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    IMO Buxton's health management experiment failed. I'm happy with any amount of time we can get Buxton on the field. But they have to figure out how to keep Buxton 100% healthy for post season. I really like Gordon & Celestino as Buxton's subs. Both Gordon & Celestino made great strides in their game from the prior year. I expect them to continue to make strides, especially Celestino this coming season. Their subbing give us a chance to win the games that Buck misses.  This take pressure off management so they can rest Buck or put him on the IL if need be.

    If they have Buxton 100% for the post season that's being successful

    PS: I feel Buck will be more fortunate & play more games this season.

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    1 hour ago, baul0010 said:

    I would just want him to be honest with himself.  If he can't perform and needs rest or surgery, then rest or have surgery.  Dragging himself through the season doesn't seem to be working for him or the Twins.

    To be fair, he "dragged" himself from early May last year and was an MVP player while out there.

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    1) The obvious

    2) Fix the plate approach he took last year due to injury:  don't try to hit everything out of the park, get the average back up.

    For whatever reason, some people are just not physically designed to hold up to the rigors of a full season.  Our manager is a great example.  I don't think you can coddle him or "protect" him, because nothing will change.  You just play him as much as possible and keep your fingers crossed.

    Byron Buxton will ultimately retire as another, possibly the greatest, in an unfortunate Twins legacy of "what if":

    Kirby Puckett (how many more years if not the HBP)
    Jason Kubel (knee)
    Corey Koskie (concussion)
    Justin Morneau (concussion)
    Francisco Liriano (TJ)
    Joe Mauer (concussion)

    Byron Buxton

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    Bunt at least 25 times. Steal 30 bases. Play 120 games in CF. Win a gold glove. Hit over .270 and hit 25 plus HR. Play in the post season. Look at each of these goals one at a time. Does anyone reading this doubt that Buck has the necessary skills to achieve more than any of these statistical goals? Could he steal 40 bases? Yes. Could win a gold glove? Yes. Could he hit more than 25 homeruns? Yes. It all depends on his health. Therefore, what could Buck do to give himself optimum opportunity to achieve these reasonable goals? It may have to be like a distance runner pacing himself. I would love to see him have a full complete season and post season. I know no one would want that more than Buck himself. 

     

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    2 hours ago, Ted Schwerzler said:

    To be fair, he "dragged" himself from early May last year and was an MVP player while out there.

    I guess.  If you look at his stats by month, it looks like he had 2 healthy months, then struggled incredibly the other 3.5 months until he was shut down.   An unhealthy Buxton doesn't help the team when he has a below .200 batting average, no walks, high k rate, and league average ops.  But his 2 good months were very good!

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    Agree with those who say the most important fact is that he is healthy when he does play.  As for number of games, give us 110 in which he is able to  play center field.  Obviously, being healthy to play every game in the playoffs is a must do.

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    18 minutes ago, BD57 said:

    130 games, 500 PA.

    Twins are paying him too much money to have him available only half the time.

    Well, according to Fan Graph's, Buxton's on-field performance in 2021 & 2022 was worth $65 MM vs actual paycheck value of $14.3 MM.

    If Buxton continues to produce as he has, even with injuries, he will far out-produce the contract he signed, actual value + ALL incentives. 

    Yes, it seems like a lot of $$$ for a guy who misses big chunks of games, but his on-field production makes his value very high. But he and the team need to figure out how to keep him on the field for about 145-150 games.

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    Buxton playing CF for at a minimum 100 games.  If his day off is a day off, then don't have him DH (give him the day off).  Playing less than 1/2 the games in CF and DH on other days is not the full Buxton we need.  While Celestino and Gordon were adequate in CF, they shouldn't be there more than Buxton.  All the other stats will be there if he is CF controlling the pastures.

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    Same old crap for 8 years now.  Every off season it's what ifs for Byron.  And every year, minus one, he seldom plays.  You keep saying he plays at a MVP level.  Yes granted he hit 28 Homer's but his average hovered around .200 most of the year with a very high strikeout rate.  How you you claim him to be a superstar when he plays so few games?  You say he got " only" 100 million.  I'm glad you are so affluent as to consider 100 million in the " only" category.  My opinion is he has been a bust with occasional glimpses of greatness.  I would argue the 100 million us not team friendly but very player friendly.  Not bad earnings for a very part time player.  I would say Buck and his agent are much better at fleecing a team out of $100 million.  I would love to see him play 140 games again, most in center field.  Will we ever know how good he could be?  We will never know.

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    3 hours ago, Whitey333 said:

    Same old crap for 8 years now.  Every off season it's what ifs for Byron.  And every year, minus one, he seldom plays.  You keep saying he plays at a MVP level.  Yes granted he hit 28 Homer's but his average hovered around .200 most of the year with a very high strikeout rate.  How you you claim him to be a superstar when he plays so few games?  You say he got " only" 100 million.  I'm glad you are so affluent as to consider 100 million in the " only" category.  My opinion is he has been a bust with occasional glimpses of greatness.  I would argue the 100 million us not team friendly but very player friendly.  Not bad earnings for a very part time player.  I would say Buck and his agent are much better at fleecing a team out of $100 million.  I would love to see him play 140 games again, most in center field.  Will we ever know how good he could be?  We will never know.

    superstars in baseball get paid $30M+ now. To make it in the top 50 in MLB started at $20M in 2022; even back in 2015 over 100 players topped $10M per season. yes, $100M is a lot of money, but in the context of MLB...it's not any longer.

    Buxton played at an all-star level last season: his defense was still superior in CF, even with the bum knee and his OPS was .833 when the league average was .706. He had an OPS+ of 135. To put that OPS+ in context, the Philadelphia Phillies (who made the World Series) had exactly 1 regular who had a higher OPS+: Bryce harper, who clocked in at 145. (Harper is a fun comp: he's unquestionably a superstar, had a serious injury that limited to roughly the same number of games as Buxton, made 2.5 times as much, and added less overall value)

    It's disingenuous to say his batting average "hovered around .200 for most of the year"; that makes it sound like he was batting around .200 for most of the season and the reality is his batting average never got all the way down to .200 and really it was only a week where he was sitting close to the Mendoza Line. He spent much more of the year in the .220-.230 range, in a season where the MLB average was .243. 

    I think a successful season for Buxton is about staying on the field more than anything else. If he can play 125 games or more with better overall health, it's a big win. He's plenty productive when he plays, but the fact that we needed to replace his impact for so many games is a problem. The dropoff is severe. Buck missed 70 games last season; if he can cut that in half this team will be substantially better. But he was 100% worth the money he got last year.

     

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    I look at it more as production from CF. He has to play enough healthy games in CF to counteract the negative WAR his replacements give us. Otherwise, we’re getting average production over the season as a whole. 

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    All these comments on 'if he can play "x-# games", then he would... is really where we are at as a club. We gave him 7 years and $100mm and this article says what a deal that was. What other club would look at paying someone $100mm and them playing a total of less than 100 games and only half of them at the position he was signed to play, a "deal"? This also was not a $100mm deal, as we have to plan on paying someone to play the majority of the season in CF. And both Cave and Celestino are not the answer to that!

    We let a lot of other top tier FA's sign with other clubs while we were working out this 'deal' of a contract with Buxton. Remember, the Twins couldn't get an offer for him at the trade deadline, he wasn't going anywhere. This was a deal that made sense for Buxton, not necessarily for the Twins. He would not have received 7y/$100mm from any other team had he hit the open market.

    Now we are back at this off season. We had better sign a veteran FA that can take over CF and play the majority of the season there, and also fill all of our other needs...

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    4 hours ago, Stew said:

    I would be happy with half the games in the field. Another 40 games at dh. And healthy at years end.

    Buxton loathed being Designated Hitter, his batting average showed that well.

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    On 11/29/2022 at 10:17 PM, mnfireman said:

    Well, according to Fan Graph's, Buxton's on-field performance in 2021 & 2022 was worth $65 MM vs actual paycheck value of $14.3 MM.

    If Buxton continues to produce as he has, even with injuries, he will far out-produce the contract he signed, actual value + ALL incentives. 

    Yes, it seems like a lot of $$$ for a guy who misses big chunks of games, but his on-field production makes his value very high. But he and the team need to figure out how to keep him on the field for about 145-150 games.

    If we're trying to win games, which is the object of the exercise as I understand it, Buck contributes nothing when he's on the bench / DL list.   

    The guys we put in the lineup when he's out bring a lot less to the table (thus far, at least).

    Buck can't win us two games at a time.  We need him in the lineup, and a lot more often than has been his history. 

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