The Minnesota Twins and Byron Buxton have had a rough season. The Twins now look bad off the field in their handling of Buxton’s injury and service time.
The Minnesota Twins and Byron Buxton. Two things that we expected to be paired together day in and day out by now. That sentiment goes all the way back to June of 2012 and the MLB Draft when the Twins selected Buxton second overall with their first round draft pick. Instead of watching a locked in, sure fire All-Star on the field, fans are instead getting impatient in waiting on Buxton to meet the expectations that preceded him.
It looked like the now 24-year-old had put the package of elite fielding and good hitting together down the stretch of the 2017 season. Entering 2018 many thought it was the time in which Buxton would put it all together for a full season and may even challenge for league MVP if all things broke right for the young center fielder and the Twins.
Instead, migraines, a bum toe, and a hurt wrist have caused Buxton to only appear in only 28 major league games in 2018. Now, in what has been a bit of a confusing and hard to examine scenario, the Twins have announced that Buxton will not see the majors again until Opening Day 2019 at the earliest.
While the reports have been conflicting on what Buxton has chosen to do now that he is shut down for the season due to his wrist injury. It does appear that he has stuck around Rochester to be with the team until the end of the Red Wings season. If his wrist is truly still bothering Buxton, it simply seems strange that now is the time to shut Buxton down when he had been playing consistently up to September. Not just playing consistently, but playing well as he has slashed .339/.381/.593 since July 27th and .365/.400/.596 since his most recent return from the DL the middle of August.
That leaves service time as the likely reason for shutting down Buxton. The service time battle is not a new one between young players and front offices. It just seems that it usually surfaces with players who haven’t played nearly as regularly in the majors as someone like Buxton. Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs is possibly one of the most memorable players who was held back due to his service clock as well as Philadelphia Phillies Maikel Franco. While both Bryant and Franco filed a grievance over their service time handling, neither have been awarded any word on a result.
What does this mean for Buxton and the Twins?
While it seems very likely that Buxton and his agent will want to also file a grievance over this handling of his service time, it also seems unlikely that anything will come down in the way of a timely ruling on that grievance. So the Twins front office look to escape any official repercussions for this decision if history holds true.
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For Buxton, this also means that the Twins front office seems to at least still be a believer in him. That is evidenced in the fact that the Twins appear to covet that extra year in 2022 of team control of Buxton enough to be grilled in the court of public opinion. Something that the one would think that any front office would only go through for a player they believe will be able to perform on the field at a hight level eventually.
Is that extra year really worth playing hardball with someone you hope to be your franchise’s cornerstone? A mentor of mine once told me this when working with others. That is to remember and remind those you are leading, “You are more important than what you do.” The people we interact with are more important than the tasks they complete or the services they provide.
Ultimately, what players need to do is get this wrinkle in the current CBA changed while negotiating the next CBA. The Twins front office is operating fully within what is acceptable based on the rules and guidelines currently set in front of them. At the same time, the front office may have just alienated their best defensive player and a player who has been missed in 2018.
Only time will tell how Buxton carries himself after this decision as he moves forward. Right now my gut tells me that we haven’t heard the end of the ripple effects from this decision to not bring Buxton back to the Twins clubhouse in 2018. Front office moves have been called into question all season. I have given them the benefit of the doubt up to this point, but this is a move that certainly deserves scrutiny.