I am a pessimist when it comes to a lot of Minnesota sports things, so I am often happy to be wrong. Rarely, though, am I proven wrong when I am so sure I would be right as I was about Byron Buxton’s desire to remain with the Minnesota Twins.
For all manner of reasons, I thought that Buxton had no interest in returning to the Twins after his rookie contract was up, and all indications suggested that the Twins were not inclined to pay Buxton what he deserved. It turns out that I was wrong on both counts.
The 15m/yr base figure is slightly less than what I would have expected for a 3 win player, which Buxton has been, even in the half seasons he has been able to be on the field. What is amazing is his accelerators. If he plays a full season, he will make $17.5m, which is akin to his value presently, even as a half term player. Beyond that, he has multi-million dollar bonuses based on his rating in MVP votes.
For an organization, it’s the perfect contract. It isn’t a boondoggle if he is hurt or not playing well, and if he is playing well, then that isn’t the type of contract you would trade, or at least not if you want to save face with the fan base. Not many players would sign this contract, but Buxton, who tries hard, and is willing to bet on himself, is apparently the perfect candidate. He was willing to do it in Minnesota, because he likes it here, and he likes the organization. My organizational read on the situation was wrong.
This is all under the backdrop of a looming lockout, and the free agent pitching supply drying up quickly. There is a lot to be said for the complexity of the Buxton contract tying up a lot of the Twins’ extension, but this was something that they were surely working on for some time. Some more attention could have been paid to the pitching market.
But then, the Twins have been forthright about their pitching hunt. They don’t want to tie up pitchers with long term deals, and I applaud their restraint. There weren’t many available pitchers that were younger than 30, and they were all asking for top dollar for a lot of years. I wonder how intently the Twins were looking at those top names that have since signed elsewhere.
But the Twins ended up with a younger player that was willing to take a short term deal in Dylan Bundy. Bundy was once a top prospect, and has had good years with Baltimore and the Angels. He is a veteran even though he just turned 29, and there are ways to maximize his productivity, namely, innings thresholds.
Just because this was the first move doesn’t mean it will be the only move, or the biggest move. I suspect that the free agent market was gliding along at a breakneck pace ahead of the lockout, but the trade market was less supple. The Twins, I suspect, had many offers to many players, and Bundy was the one who wanted the certainty before an uncertain time.
When baseball gets back to business, there are still other free agents to be had, though I’m not convinced the Twins will be in the market for them. They have some decent arms and some prospects that will make the leap soon, but nobody ready to be the face of the rotation. The best place to find that face is on the trade market, and it will happen. Dylan Bundy’s name will linger in our heads until the lockout is resolved, but I suspect that by the season opener, he will not be the name people remember from the offseason.
There is a lot of angry Twins criticism, as there often is, but this offseason, weird as it is, has gone just fine. In fact, the Byron Buxton contract should inspire a lot of confidence and respect for the organization, and hope for the team’s future.