Byron Buxton is Already Worth His Salary in WAR

Photo: Nick Wosika – USA TODAY Sports

Byron Buxton has played in just 46 of the 63 games the Minnesota Twins have played so far this season. His 195 plate appearances (needs 200) aren’t enough to qualify for the “League Leaders” table on Fangraphs.com. But when you take away that “qualified” parameter, Buxton suddenly shows up on the first page of the league’s most valuable hitters.

We’re not talking about an end-of-season award voted on by baseball’s bigwig media members. Fangraphs created its own “WAR” metric (fWAR) and they use it to attach a dollar value to each player across the league. As you collect more WAR, your value goes up.

Byron Buxton has collected 2.2 fWAR so far this season (18th most among MLB hitters), which is worth $17.7 million in contract value for a season. So despite his lack of games played, Buck has already outperformed the average annual value ($14.3 million) of the new contract he signed this offseason. Even if he weren’t to play another game this season.

Worth Every Penny, Plus Much More

Let’s put some context on just how crazy this output is. Only two players in the top-20 for fWAR, among hitters, has under 200 plate appearances. Taylor Ward (Angels) is the only player who’s been more valuable ($19.2M), with less opportunity (158 PA), than Byron Buxton. Most have 225+ plate appearances. Aaron Judge (257 PA), front-runner for league MVP, ranks 1st with 3.7 fWAR, worth $29.6 million. Mike Trout (222 PA) ranks 6th with 3.1 fWAR, worth $24.8 million.

Trout makes $36 million per season. When he eventually signs the deal he’s negotiating currently, Judge might become the first player to make $50 million per season. Buxton is under contract for an average value of $14.3 million per season, through 2028. His salary is just over $9 million in 2022.

If Buxton continues at this same pace, he will finish the 2022 season with an fWAR around 6.0. That much fWAR is worth $48 million in a season. Remember, He does have escalators in his deal so, hopefully, that type of output would net him more real cash. Because he clearly deserves it.

Not the best version of Byron Buxton

Byron Buxton isn’t even playing at 100%, or even close to it, for that matter. He’s getting penciled in at DH just as often as he is CF and it looks painful for him to run the basepaths or throw from the outfield. Yes, Buxton has hit the 2nd-most home runs in the league but his .236 batting average is still below his career batting average (.247), a number that’s deflated from his younger years. If healthy, there’s little doubt Buck would bat closer to .300.

The Byron Buxton rollercoaster can get frustrating to ride, especially with the seemingly random resting schedule the Minnesota Twins have him on. But if you take a step back, there’s no doubt he’s worth every penny of his new deal. In fact, he’s obviously worth much more than that. Even if he’s only able to play half of that contract.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan