The Minnesota Twins are playing a costly game of chicken with superstar outfielder Byron Buxton, while also expecting the court of public opinion to back them after a series of highly-publicized injuries.
If Minny blinks first, could the Yankees take advantage?
When on the field, Buxton is a force of nature, but a series of dings, nicks and bruises — ranging from structural to freakish — have given him the label of “injury prone,” which is hard to rebut at this point. As of now, he sits on the IL yet again.
And so the Twins, in their infinite wisdom, have chosen this moment to give him an ultimatum: return for Aaron Hicks money ($70 million), or we’ll trade you.
The surprising news here isn’t necessarily that the Twins are attempting to “lowball” an impossible-to-categorize player with their first offer.
The shock is that the whole process is public, and they intended to play it out that way. $70 million is not a high number, by baseball standards! Did Minnesota really expect fans to revolt against Buxton if he rejected a below-market offer? If this situation gets ugly — and it could — the Yankees should wedge their way into those trade conversations and up the extension offer by 25%.
Sorry, Aaron Hicks.
The Yankees could get Byron Buxton with this trade package.
The memory of Buxton raking is fresh in our minds, considering he’s coming off the best stretch of his career — or really anyone’s career.
Before his latest injury, the speedy power threat had racked up 2.9 WAR in just 103 at-bats’ worth of baseball this year, crushing 10 homers and thriving with a wRC+ of 222. That’s the closest we’ve ever seen to Buxton matching his potential.
How do you value such things in trade, though? Buxton’s always been mostly comprised of pedigree and flashes until early this season — when, again, he hit the IL, first with a hip strain (structural) and then with a hand fracture (ridiculous). He’s never played over 95 games except in 2017, and he’s never batted above .253 in a full season (though he obviously contributes in myriad other ways). Last season, he hit .254 while OBPing .267, which is hilarious.
So, what would it take, presuming the prospect of an extension is also on the horizon? At this moment, he comes with only a year and a half of control, and we doubt the Yankees will reach into the true upper echelon to secure his services (no Dominguez, no Peraza). For now, let’s say we replace him with Estevan Florial, include Deivi Garcia, and add a back-end top 30 prospect (Beck Way?).
And, again, in this instance, we save you $70 million.
There are many complicating factors to this discussion. Perhaps the Twins include the right incentives and escalators to make the contract more fair. Maybe the Phillies jump the line in trade talks, which has floated around this weekend.
Or maybe everything goes south quickly, considering the Twins decided to negotiate in the press instead of face-to-face. Worth monitoring.