Negotiations between the Twins and Byron Buxton on a contact extension are at an impasse, our Phil Miller reports, with Buxton's side rejecting a Twins offer and the Twins rejecting a counter-offer.
That there are at least offers changing hands represents some level of hope that something will get done, but as the Twins falter this season it's increasingly easy to imagine the Twins reaching a point of no return and trading Buxton — likely this offseason, with one year left before he hits free agency, as Patrick Reusse and I talked about on Monday's Daily Delivery podcast.
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That would be a big mistake on the part of the Twins.
Here's the deal: Published reports indicate the Twins started with an offer of $70 million in guarantees to Buxton and nudged that to $80 million. The exactly length and additional money via escalators and incentives are not known, which makes an analysis tricky.
The market for a healthy Buxton would be two to three times that figure over, say, seven years. But he's on the injured list for the 11th time and has played in roughly half of the Twins' games in the past five seasons. So determining his value as an often injured but MVP-level player when healthy is close to impossible.
The problem for the Twins, though, is that they already established a market for an oft-injured MVP-caliber player.
They guaranteed Josh Donaldson $92 million over four seasons ($84 million plus $8 million buyout or $16 million team option for a fifth year) when they signed him before the 2020 season.
They did that even though Donaldson was 34 years old — about 6 years older than Buxton will be at the start of next season. They did that even though Donaldson plays third base, a corner infield position that is far less at a premium than center field. They did that even though pitching appeared to be a greater need coming off an MLB-record 307 home runs. And they did that even though they knew he would take up a large chunk of payroll.
If you're going to do that ... paying Buxton is a no-brainer. And that's not necessarily a complaint about Donaldson's deal; he's been reasonably productive but has also had stints on the injured list in both 2020 and 2021 — about as expected, maybe a little less than one might have hoped from him so far.
It's just a recognition that they took a big swing less than two years ago on Donaldson. And if it ends up being a choice between Donaldson and Buxton, I'd clearly rather have Buxton. He's delivered almost as many wins above replacement (12.6 vs. 13.2) as Donaldson since the start of 2017, and he figures to deliver a lot more in coming years.
Buxton's guaranteed money over a 7-year deal should easily eclipse $100 million, with the ability to double that if he's healthy. The first number is what he's worth (really) as a half-time player, and the latter is what he's worth as a full-time player.
The Twins set the market for a high-ceiling, low floor player and now they have to abide by it even if they're afraid of the risk.