1:45PM: The Twins are also listening to offers on righty Kenta Maeda, tweets Heyman. He’s signed through 2023 with an annual base salary of just $3MM, although he can earn an additional $10MM of incentives based on starts and innings pitched each season.
12:56PM: The Twins have already traded Nelson Cruz and Jose Berrios, and they’re surely not done for the day, with several other players to shop to contending clubs. Center fielder Byron Buxton’s market has picked up steam since last night, tweets Dan Hayes of The Athletic, although it’s no sure thing he’ll be moved just yet. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweets that the Phillies “love” Buxton and are one six or seven teams inquiring with the Twins.
Buxton, 27, is currently on the 10-day injured list with a fractured hand that he sustained when he was hit by a pitch earlier in the summer. He’d only just come off the injured list after missing more than a month due to a strained hip flexor.
The Twins and Buxton have had extension talks as recently as this month, but those negotiations didn’t bring about a contract. Minnesota was reportedly willing to offer upwards of $80MM and include some incentives to boost the contract’s overall value. It’s not the first time the Twins and Buxton have talked extension, but nothing has come of those efforts just yet and Buxton now finds himself 15 months from reaching free agency at the conclusion of the 2022 season. He’s said even after those extension talks broke down that he hopes to remain in Minnesota long-term and is very much open to future talks.
Buxton is one of the toughest players in the game to value either in a trade or on an extension. He’s arguably the best defensive player in all of baseball, at any position, and is among the sport’s five or so fastest players as well. While the former No. 2 overall pick struggled at the plate in his first several seasons, he’s batted .282/.322/.581 with 33 homers, 44 doubles and four triples in his past 540 plate appearances — a star-level offensive output.
Of course, the problem is that those 540 plate appearances have been spread across three seasons. Buxton has been on the Major League injured list a whopping 11 times, and while some have come as the result of freak injuries — the current broken hand, a foot fracture suffered on a foul tip — the lack of durability is an obvious concern both for the Twins and for potential trade partners.
Buxton is nearing a return from the injured list, and his play so far in limited at-bats in 2021 would be MVP-caliber over the course of a full season. He’s batted .369/.409/.767 with 10 homers and 11 doubles in just 110 plate appearances. The Twins figure to set a high asking price, as they did on both Cruz and Berrios. Whether another club will part with impact young talent and take on the health risks associated with Buxton remains to be seen.