Is there a bigger tease in baseball than Twins center fielder Byron Buxton, an All-Star-caliber talent who, for the life of him, cannot stay healthy? The former second overall pick, for all his athletic gifts, has never quite put it altogether for Minnesota, compiling a frustrating .247/.298/.453 batting line with 61 homers, 191 RBI and 67 steals since debuting in 2015. It looked like Buxton’s long-awaited breakout was finally upon us when the 27-year-old cruised to a .426 average with eight homers in April, garnering Player of the Month honors for the first time in his MLB career. Unfortunately, the 2017 Gold Glove recipient has barely seen the field since then, appearing in just nine games since May 1st while battling a variety of injuries.
With less than one percent odds of reaching the postseason according to projections compiled by FiveThirtyEight.com, it’s probably time for the Twins to close up shop for this year and start thinking about the future. That would require them to make a determination on Buxton, who, in the absence of a long-term deal, will enter free agency in 2023.
Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Twins have offered Buxton a contract extension in excess of $70 million and will likely trade the injury-prone outfielder, either in the coming weeks or next offseason, if a compromise can’t be reached. Along with Buxton, Rosenthal notes the Twins could also move Andrelton Simmons, veteran slugger Nelson Cruz and right-handed ace Jose Berrios at the upcoming trade deadline, scheduled for July 30th at 4 PM ET.
Buxton will have to weigh whether he prefers the long-term stability afforded by Minnesota’s fair, but admittedly below-market extension, or if he’d rather test the free-agent waters in 2023, perhaps signing a one-year deal of the “prove-it” variety in hopes of landing a bigger payday later a la George Springer, who, at 31 years old, secured $150 million from Toronto this offseason. The seventh-year outfielder carries definite risk (he’s currently rehabbing a broken hand suffered last month), though his rare blend of speed, power and elite outfield defense would make him an appealing flyer, assuming he returns to the diamond sooner rather than later.