Outfielder Byron Buxton has turned down a multi-year, $80 million contract extension from the Minnesota Twins. Terms of the offer have not been disclosed, but it was thought to be an incentive-laden offer, likely due to the fact that Buxton has been extremely injury prone. In fact, he is currently on the injured list with a fractured left hand.
The mercurial but brittle center fielder has shown flashes of brilliance in the last three years. Since the start of the 2019 season, he has a fantastic on-base percentage plus slugging (OPS) of .903, and an amazing .581 slugging percentage. During this time, Buxton leads the majors in Wins Above Replacement with a WAR of 8.5.
Byron started the 2021 season red hot batting .426, with eight home runs and 14 RBI, helping him earn the American League Player of the Month for April. He is the first Minnesota Twins player to win this award since Delmon Young in July of 2010. Along the way, he set a new Twins OPS record for any month with a mark of 1.363.
But then the wheels started to come off. The Twins placed him on the injured list on May 22 with a hip strain. an injury that forced him to spend nearly six weeks on the injured list. Upon his return, he was hit by a pitch within a few games, resulting in the fractured hand. Buxton has only played in 27 games so far this season.
And therein lies the rub. Byron has only once played in a hundred or more games in a season during his entire career. That was in 2017 when he played in 140 games for the Minnesota Twins. His assorted injuries have included concussions, a sprained thumb, migraine headaches, a toe fracture, a torn labrum, etc.
He has demonstrated that when he is in the lineup, he is one of the most talented and exciting players in the game. Beside his hitting prowess, he is a terror on the base paths and of course, the best defensive center fielder in Major League Baseball.
The Minnesota Twins may now entertain trade offers for Buxton. Moving him when he is injured decreases his value, but it is still a possibility. It is also possible that if the contract negotiations with Byron and his agent continue to stall, he could likely be dealt in the offseason.
This would be a bitter pill for the Twins and their fans to swallow. We have seen him through his developmental years and his many struggles. In just the last few years, we have witnessed Byron start to reach the potential that the team envisioned for him when they made him the second overall pick in the 2012 Amateur Draft.
It doesn’t look promising but here’s hoping that the Minnesota Twins and Buxton return to the bargaining table and reach an agreement on a contract. I, like most Twins fans, would like to see “Buck” retire as a Twin. I hope the “Baseball Gods” are listening.