JULY 27 — Before the Saints opened their season on May 4, a reporter walked the CHS Arena to gauge how interest in the team had changed in the wake of its decision to become the Twins’ biggest affiliate.
The general consensus was that it would be fun to see the prospects for the organization in St. Paul when they are promoted, and to see the Twins players when they are on rehab assignments.
“You know, we’re going to see Byron Paxton,” said one fan.
Maybe it wasn’t very pleasing to say; This was very true though. During rehab from a hip strain in mid-June, Buxton performed at CHS Field, going 5-9 with two home owners and seven RBIs in three games with the Saints.
It was a pleasing omen for the Twins because this was about how rapid Buxton was prior he got injured, hitting 0.370 with nine home runs and 17 RBI in 24 major league games while playing, as usual, an unrivaled midfield defense. But for a short period, he was the best baseball player.
So, who would the twins get if they signed Buxton, who is still only 27, on a lengthy-term deal prior becoming an unrestricted free agent following the 2022 season? Baseball’s best player, or the most injury-prone superstar who’s played just 181 out of 484 potential games since the start of the 2018 season?
Buxton returned from a hip strain for less than three games prior he broke his left hand on a court and is back on the injured list. He did some training with his teammates prior Monday’s game against the Detroit Tigers and addressed reporters. But the questions about his pending return were just a prelude to questions about contract negotiations with the twins, which were reportedly pushed back until the end of final week.
“The twins recruited me, so this is where I want to spend my career,” Buxton said. “There’s not much I can say to anyone else, but as for me, I know where I want to spend my career.”
So where does that leave the twins? The Buxton of April is the guy you’re throwing $100 million at. But only a month has passed, and Buxton has played over 100 games in a season (92 in fact) just once. The guy is fragile, right? Well, let me tell you the story of another weak player…
In 1980, he missed six weeks due to a rib cage muscle tear, and in 1981 he was on the list with a wrist injury when players went on strike. He played only 13 games in 1984 due to Tommy John’s surgery, and in 1986 he ruptured his hamstring three times.
The following season, this man reached 0.353 and led the MLS with 114 throws and 41 doubles. On September 16, 1996, he attained his number 3000 in Major League as a member of the Twins, and in 2004 he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
That doesn’t unkind Byron Paxton is as pleasing as Paul Molitor or ever will be. What he’s saying is that unless you’re a member of the “Jackass” crew, injuries are the luck of the lot. Buxton gets hurt playing baseball, not launching himself into the sky at Porta John.
Beginning in 1987, Molitor averaged 139 games, 176 hits, 76 RBIs and 34 doubles in the final 12 major league seasons—and that includes the 1994 season that was completely abridged.
Sure, it’s sincere game for the twins to use the absence of injuries in the negotiations, but it’s ridiculous to assume Buxton will persevere to struggle with end-of-season injuries. No one doubted his work ethic or his desire. And if Buxton’s April is a statistical anomaly, it also represents the most realistic expectation for the No. 2 draft pick in 2012.
The twins are said to have started Buxton with $73 million over seven years, which is about what the twins are paying Michael Pineda annually this season — and no one comes to the park to see Michael Pineda, or chant “MVP! MVP!” It is about the rules.
“It’s just one of those things,” Buxton said. “We didn’t come to an agreement, but it’s not the first time it’s happened. We’ve been in many conversations prior, and that’s not the end.”
Some team will pay Buxton what he wants; It would be a shame to see it go to anyone but the twins (see: David Ortiz), who waited so lengthy for their previous prospect to reach packed flower.