The Twins are discussing a long-term contract extension with center fielder Byron Buxton, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The report further notes that Buxton is likely to be traded if an agreement isn't reached and that the current offer is more than seven years and $70 million.
Buxton is still under team control through 2022, so the possible trade doesn't have to happen this month before the deadline. It could come this offseason.
There is perhaps no player in baseball tougher to nail down in terms of future value, which makes contract extension talks even tougher to figure. Rosenthal does report that there are incentives and escalators in the Twins' offer to Buxton and that makes sense.
Still, it's awfully tough to know where to agree by both sides.
On Buxton's end, he's shown that he has the talent to play like an MVP candidate. He's done it in several stretches in his career. He's doing it this season when he's on the field. In 27 games, he's hit .369/.409/.767 (222 OPS+) with 11 doubles, 10 homers, 19 RBI, 21 runs and five steals. Teaming all that with his amazing range in center field, and it's a 2.9 WAR, which is a ridiculous pace.
Also, the free agent market can be cruel. Some players have to accept much less money than they turned down in extension offers. The phase "betting on himself" is often used to praise a player when he's playing well, but that pesky word "bet" is in there and sometimes you lose.
Even if there's a thought in Buxton's head that he's worth more than $70 million over seven years, surely there's a part of him that also thinks "just take the damn money since it's sitting right there."
On the Twins' end, yes, there's the immense talent. That's why they are talking extension. There's also his history. Between a litany of injuries and some performance-related demotions to the minors, Buxton has only appeared in more than 100 games one time (140 in 2017). Even in the 60-game 2020 season, he only appeared in 39 games. After that 140-game season in 2017, his games played by season have gone as follows: 28, 87, 39 and 27.
It's also fair to point out that while Buxton has MVP upside -- at least in short bursts -- we haven't really seen it on a consistent basis. Before 2019, he was a career .230/.285/.387 (80 OPS+) hitter. He went .262/.314/.513 in 2019 and then climbed .254/.267/.577 (126 OPS+) last season.
Of course, with his exceptional defense and baserunning, he averages 5.2 WAR per 162 games in his career.
And as noted, his upside is higher than that.
It's anyone's guess how this winds up. If Buxton does bet on himself, it's possible he comes back and keeps playing like he did earlier this year all the way through a full 2022. If he does that, he explodes in free agency and gets more than twice what he's reportedly being offered. If he turns down a deal, gets traded and then can't see much time on the field through next season, he won't make close to $70 million in free agency. There's middle ground in there, too.
Basically, best of luck to Buxton and the Twins on these talks. It's a difficult situation to pin down.