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Concerning Byron Buxton's Extension
I suppose I should compose some thoughts on the Byron Buxton extension, huh?
In case you haven’t heard, Buxton and the Minnesota Twins agreed to a historic seven-year deal that guarantees the speedy center fielder $100 million with ample room to make more if he can remain healthy and productive.
Buxton’s base salary over the final six years of the deal is $15 million, but if he were to win an MVP while making at least 625 plate appearances, that would make that year’s contract worth $25.5 million based on incentives.
It’s just the second contract in franchise history to guarantee a player at least $100 million, and while Buxton’s health has been an issue for basically his entire career, it was a move the Twins simply had to make.
For one, the optics of letting Buxton play out his last year of club control and hit free agency would look horrific after not only trading Jose Berrios but seeing him sign a fairly reasonable extension with the Toronto Blue Jays over the last week.
Statistically, it’s not hard to show what Buxton has meant to the team.
Since Buxton’s big-league debut on June 14, 2015, the Twins are 242-210 in games he’s started (.535) and 240-279 in games he hasn’t (.462).
Since 2019, the Twins are 104-68 when Buxton starts a game (.605) and 106-106 (.500) when he doesn’t.
Since Buxton’s debut, he’s been worth plus-12.9 WAR (via Fangraphs) in 1,758 plate appearances — or roughly a plus-4.4 fWAR for every 600 plate appearances.
His fWAR this season, if extrapolated for 600 plate appearances, would have been 9.9.
And while the math there is tricky — it’s extremely difficult to play at that pace for a full season, and Buxton hasn’t exactly shown that ability, either — that still would exceed what AL MVP Shohei Ohtani totaled when combining his offensive fWAR (5.1) with his pitching fWAR (3.0) by a wide margin.
The last MLB player to total that many fWAR in a single season was Mike Trout in 2018 (10.4).
It’s not hard to show what Buxton brings to the table with video, either. In fact, it’s quite easy:
That’s from April 2021 alone. Buxton’s production in just that month alone — only 18 games, by the way — was worth 2.1 wins. No other position player in MLB was worth even 2.0 in April (Trout was second at 1.9).
But the case to keep Buxton goes well beyond what he brings on the field.
It signifies a team keeping around homegrown talent — something that was supposed to happen when the team moved into Target Field for the 2010 season.
It signifies that it’s possible the front office views the 2021 season as a blip on the radar, and is willing to make things work to try patch the holes that became obvious as the Twins limped to a last-place finish just two years removed from a 100-win season.
But perhaps most importantly, it signifies to the fans that the front office and/or ownership are listening to them. It would have been disastrous to let Joe Mauer play out the string after his 2009 MVP campaign.
It would have been equally disastrous to let someone else take the — all things considered — modest gamble that Buxton will be healthy enough to realize the potential he’s shown in each of the last three seasons.
At $15 million per year over the final six years of the deal for a player of Buxton’s caliber — for reference, Fangraphs places a value of $33 million on 4.2 fWAR last season, which he did in just 61 games — is a relatively easy pill to swallow when the upside far outweighs the downside.
And while that’s rarely true with extensions that take a player into their 30s, it seems pretty clear this is the case with Mr. Buxton.