Monday, July 26, 2021

As Buxton Hope Fades, Front Office Goes

Byron Buxton is quite arguably the most talented player in Minnesota Twins history. His athleticism is unmatched, and his production is unparalleled. Then there’s the caveat, when healthy.

With the hometown nine looking at the doldrums of the division, and the 2021 Major League Baseball trade deadline looming, plenty of storms are brewing on the roster construction front. One of the most reported is that of Minnesota’s failed attempts at a contract extension with their star centerfielder.

Currently shelved after being hit by a pitch, Buxton had rebuffed the latest seven-year, $80 million pact that would add addition earning opportunity through incentives. That deal was just a $7 million increase over the previous offer, and still nearly $20 million shy of where this front office paid another oft-injured 3rd basemen (who is five years older) just two seasons ago. 

The refrain regarding Buxton’s availability is a common one, he has been shelved often throughout his career. The reality though, is that it is through the injury history where the Twins find themselves offered grace. Because he’s been unavailable, Buxton’s $200 million or more payday is not going to happen. He would command plenty on the open market with more competition bidding on his services, but it’s the Twins who have the table and the realistic opportunity because of how his career has played out.

Coming into 2021 the team was expected to be good. Unfortunately, the front office has watched each of its offseason acquisitions tie together career-worst seasons, as well as regression from plenty of holdover talents. Unless there’s an admittance of poor talent assessment virtually across the whole roster, then there should be reason to look at this season as an outlier.

2022 represents an opportunity to reload. If the core of this club was seen as competitive before, and that’s been proven through their track record of winning, an alteration of that belief shouldn’t be so swift. To suggest there’s an attempt at competing in the year ahead while dealing the team’s best player would be hollow at best.

Certainly, both Jose Berrios and Buxton should command a haul when it comes to prospect capital in exchange for their services. The volatility of those players will always be high however, and you’d need at least two reaching something like the 95th percentile of their hopefully outcomes to feel good about what you gave up. Berrios would love a gaping hole in an already poor rotation, and Buxton’s presence would be missed on a nightly basis.

Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have put in an infrastructure of sustainability and competitiveness. They should be commended for that. Bailing on that process at the Major League level rather than supplementing what they have fostered would be a hard pill to swallow, and one worthy of substantial criticism.