Twins Cannot Afford to Not Pay Byron Buxton
Well, you may have thought it ended months ago but the Minnesota Twins were still playing baseball games, up until just a few days ago. Two wins against the Kansas City Royals to close out the season meant the 2021 Twins narrowly avoided 90 losses, officially finishing the year 73-89. So congratulations, we finally made it to the offseason.
For Falvine and the rest of their front office, the offseason to-do list is extensive. There’s a lot that needs to be fixed when your team flirts with 90 losses and, thanks to MLB CBA disputes, we aren’t even sure when or if 2022 games will be played. The Twins front office can’t worry about that, though. They have contracts that need to be extended, others to be cut and a plethora of needs entering free agency.
The first priority of the off-season, however, should be obvious.
Byron Buxton finished at 4.1 WAR for the season, per FanGraphs, matching Jorge Polanco for highest on the 2021 #MNTwins.— Do-Hyoung Park (@dohyoungpark) October 4, 2021
Buxton accumulated that value in 61 games. Polanco played 152.
Buxton’s .647 SLG was the highest single-season mark in Twins history (min. 60 games).
MLB’s highest slugging percentage by a center fielder in the past 50 years:— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) October 3, 2021
.674 — Ken Griffey Jr., 1994
.647 — Byron Buxton, 2021 🆕
.646 — Ken Griffey Jr., 1997
.645 — Mike Trout, 2019
Now or Never
In all reality, the front office needs to make a decision on Byron Buxton’s future by the start of spring training. Next season is his last under contract. If the two sides can’t reach an agreement that keeps him in Minnesota, the Twins will get by-far the best bang for their buck if they trade him before teams start gathering in warm climates, come February. Waiting until the mid-season trade deadline would significantly drop his value.
Or, Falvine and the Pohlads could just go the easier route and sign the organization’s most talented player to a contract extension. That’s right. Pull the Pohlad family checkbook out of Jim’s back pocket and write Byron a big fat check that keeps him in a Minnesota Twins uniform next Spring Training, and going forward.
Buxton Wants to Stay
By all accounts, Buxton wants to remain in Minneapolis and he’s willing to discuss contract numbers that would likely get blown away if he were to ever reach free agency.
Byron Buxton is a $20M+ per year player if he can stay healthy for 100 games. If he’s willing to sign for $15 million, which multiple outlets have suggested he would (The Athletic, Star Tribune), the Twins cannot afford to miss the opportunity to secure his future services before other teams get to join the bidding.
The Minnesota front office loves to bet on players who come with injury history discounts. Of all the dudes who sit on that discounted shelf of previously injured toys, Buxton has to have the highest ceiling of possible return.
byron buxton has hit a home run in 8.3% of his plate appearances — the highest rate in baseball — since the beginning of 2020.— parker hageman (@HagemanParker) October 1, 2021
his .610 slugging percentage is second only to mike trout (.611).
watch this swing and just appreciate the elite movements. pic.twitter.com/jSt0eVaDNT
Speaking of return, let’s talk about what $15 million means to a Major League Baseball team. More specifically, what it means to the Minnesota Twins
How much is $15 million?
When we break professional sports down into dollars and cents, it’s difficult for the average Joe to wrap our brains around that much cash. So I find it easiest to use comparisons. What else could Falvine get for the $15 million it will cost to sign Buck?
A $15 million per season salary would make Byron the 2nd-highest paid player on the Twins roster, behind only Josh Donaldson. Minnesota paid four players an 8-figure salary in 2021. The aforementioned Donaldson ($21M), Miguel Sano ($11M), Andrelton Simmons ($10.5M) and Michael Pineda ($10M).
Let’s leave Josh Donaldson out of this conversation because he had a great season and he’s another guy the Twins should keep around if they want to win games in 2022. But the Pohlad’s paid over $30 million in 2021 salary to the other three guys mentioned above.
In 288 total games played during the 2021 season, Sano, Pineda and Simmons posted a combined WAR of 3.7. That’s significantly lower than the 4.5 WAR Buxton totaled by himself in just 61 games. Both Simmons and Pineda are now free agents and I can’t think of a better way to redirect their paychecks than to a Byron Buxton contract extension. He’d certainly bring more money in ticket revenue than the other three combined, too.
Byron Buxton’s magical number is supposedly $15M/YR. Excluding JD’s $21M, the #MNTwins paid three other 8-figure salaries in 2021.— Minnesota Sports Fan (@realmnsportsfan) October 8, 2021
Combined, they cost double Buxton’s rumored asking price but were worth less in WAR… pic.twitter.com/QKHuMilCIr
Pay the man.
So after seeing all of these facts and numbers, how can the Minnesota Twins management or ownership explain their willingness to pay Donaldson $21M and Sano, Pineda, Simmons a combined $31M; while denying Buxton at a health-plagued bargain contract of $15M?
They can’t, just like a winning Twins team can’t afford to lose Byron on the baseball field. Even if it’s only for a fraction of the games they play.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan