Trade or Sign and When? What’s Next for Byron Buxton and the Minnesota Twins

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez - Star Tribune

After a month away because of a hip injury, Byron Buxton’s latest return to the Minnesota Twins lineup lasted all of two games, before he was bitten by yet another injury bug which landed him back on the all-too-familiar Injured List. This time, the happenstance was bad luck and completely outside of his control. But, that won’t change the reality of his fragile history.

If we take Rocco Baldelli at his word, Buxton’s hand injury will sideline him for a month or two. What happens next could be the most important months of Georgia native’s career. First, let’s remember that Byron Buxton is only under team control for one more year. He’s set to be an unrestricted free agent after the 2022 season. That means, the Twins have until July 2022 (next year’s deadline) to sign or trade Buxton. Otherwise, they’ll likely lose him for nothing.

Let’s also note that MLB teams CAN trade players who are on the injured list in 2021. That means Buxton CAN be traded before the July 30 trade deadline, whether he’s healthy or not. Trading an injured player would present its own hurdles but it is possible.

There’s no chance Byron Buxton makes it to MLB free agency at the end of 2022, barring a much more serious injury than what we’ve seen hamper his career so far. That means, there are only two realistic endings to this saga. What’s impossible to know is which outcome will become reality and how long we will wait to get there.

Ending A: Trade Him (Now or Later)

If the Twins can’t won’t meet Byron Buxton’s long-term asking price, and instead decide to trade him before he hits free agency after the 2022 season, they’ll have to decide WHEN to make the deal. Buxton’s expected to be off the injured list and ready to go for the back-half of the season. That means trading for him before the July 30 deadline would give the Twins’ trade partner TWO playoff runs (1.5 seasons) with Byron before technically being forced to sign him long-term.

Waiting until the offseason would eliminate one of those playoff runs for the receiving team, not to mention a half season and full offseason to work with him and possibly sign Buck to a long-term deal. Whether injured or not, you’d think somebody out there would already see Buxton for the high-risk / high-reward return he is.

An offseason to deal Buxton could certainly prove beneficial for both parties as well. If he returns to the Twins’ lineup, stays healthy and continues to dominate, his trade stock would skyrocket.

Still, his arrow could easily head the other direction, too. Should Buxton return to the lineup, just to injure himself yet again soon after, his trade stock would plummet. And these unknowns bring me to ending B.

Ending B: Sign New Deal

This is the fairy tale ending that everyone who’s involved and supporting the Minnesota Twins wants. In this scenario, Buxton chooses security over future possibilities and he agrees to one of the (somewhat) discounted, but still very impressive, contract offers that the Twins have already made or will make in the very near future.

In this scenario, Buxton still becomes a $100 millionaire, especially when we factor in endorsements, and the Twins get a bona fide superstar (when healthy) for under ~ 5 year / $100 million (less than $20 million per year). That would be a very affordable situation for a player of that caliber in a mid-size market.

If the Twins and Buxton come together with something like this and he continues to excel and stays (somewhat) healthy, this would be a home run scenario for Minnesota. But, there’s no guarantee Byron ever plays a full season. In fact, it’s unlikely, given what we’ve seen so far.

And if his career continues on the same injury prone path it’s currently traveling, what kind of shape is Byron’s body in after 5 years? That’s a lot of security to guarantee a guy who’s had a roller coaster career and can’t stay healthy, which is why it would make sense for Buxton too.

The when…

How patient will the Minnesota Twins’ front office prove to be? If Buxton doesn’t want to sign long-term, at a price point the front office is comfortable with, then they’ll be forced to wait him out or trade him. The longer the Twins wait him out, the riskier the outfit gets for both sides. If Byron Buxton stays healthy then both sides cash in big one way or another. If Buxton continues to find the injured list we’ll see his trade and contract value fall through the floor.

So how confident is Byron Buxton that he’s not made of glass? How desperate are the Minnesota Twins to make something happen sooner rather than later? Those are the biggest questions surrounding this entire blog.

If this latest injury finally has Buxton questioning his own ability to stay healthy going forward, then getting everything he can now would make the most sense. But the Twins could decide to cash in at any time, via trade, while he drags his feet.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan