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Minnesota Twins exploring Byron Buxton contract extension, star likely traded if no deal

The Minnesota Twins are the biggest disappointment of the 2021 MLB season. As the franchise prepares to be sellers at the MLB trade deadline, the future for star outfielder Byron Buxton hangs in the balance.

Buxton, age 27, started the year out on a positive note. Once the No. 1 prospect in baseball, everything came together for Minnesota’s center fielder. He was playing at an MVP-caliber level before suffering a hip strain in May. Just three days into his June return, a hit by pitch fractured his left hand and sent him back to the IL.

Injuries have been a troubling theme during his MLB career. Buxton hasn’t played more than 90 games since the 2017 season and IL stints have meant he was in Minnesota’s lineup just 38.2 percent of the time in the past four years. But the Twins also recognize his incredible talent.

According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the Twins have approached Buxton about a contract extension that would keep him with the franchise for years to come. If he declines, Minnesota will immediately start fielding trade calls and he would likely be moved at the trade deadline or this winter.

The contract offer is worth more than $70 million and reachable incentives could push the total value beyond $100 million. However, there are also protections in the contract to prevent it from becoming too large if Buxton’s poor injury luck continues.

  • Byron Buxton stats (2021): .369/.409/.767, 10 home runs, 216 wRC+, 2.7 fWAR

On one hand, there is some incentive for Buxton to sign the deal now. Fully aware of his own bad fortune, a long-term deal with guaranteed money would be outstanding for him and his family. He has fit nicely in Minnesota and could become an even bigger star in the future.

But there’s a greater incentive to turn down the contract offer. Buxton is arbitration-eligible for the final time this winter and early estimates suggest he could earn $10 million. He’d enter the 2022 season in a contract year, a chance to make his case as one of the top MLB free agents in 2023.

In terms of pure talent, Byron Buxton can be one of the best players in MLB. He posted a FanGraphs WAR (2.7) greater than Mike Trout (2.3) in fewer games and it would project to a historic 10 WAR club over a full season.

There’s certainly risk in rejecting the Twins’ offer and betting on himself to stay healthy. But the financial upside exceeds anything Minnesota is offering him now.

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If the Twins decide to make a Byron Buxton trade, count on the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Houston Astros, New York Mets and San Francisco Giants to be among the most interested clubs.