ARLINGTON -- The Twins will not be calling up center fielder Byron Buxton from Triple-A Rochester as a September callup, general manager Thad Levine said after Saturday's 7-4 loss to the Rangers.
It ends a disappointing year for Buxton, who led the Twins in Wins Above Replacement and won the Platinum Gold Glove in 2017, but has dealt with a variety of injuries this season, including migraines, a fractured left big toe and a sprained left wrist. The decision has a major impact on the organization going forward, as it gains an extra year of control over Buxton, who fell 13 days short of accruing enough service time to be a free agent in 2021 instead of '22.
Levine said that wasn't the driving reason and cited Buxton's health as an issue with his wrist sprain dating back to July. Buxton, 24, hit .365/.400/.596 with a homer and seven RBIs in 12 games with Rochester since returning from his second stint on the Minor League disabled list with the injury.
"The decision really for that is driven off of three mean factors," Levine said. "One, is a continued desire to put him in the best position to be healthy going into 2019. I think he's done a great job recently of fighting through his wrist injury. The reality is it's still lingering. We would ideally try to put him in the position such that in 2019, he's unencumbered from a health standpoint.
"Two, there is a performance standpoint factor that is affecting this decision, and three, quite frankly, it's just a playing time situation. As we look to the Major League team right now as it's constituted, we obviously view Byron Buxton as a starting outfielder. Those at-bats were not necessarily prevalent at this juncture, so we are not going to recall him. Needless to say, he is also disappointed by that decision."
Levine did acknowledge that organizations do look at service time as a consideration with roster decisions, but again stated it wasn't why Buxton isn't coming up.
"I think part of our jobs is we're supposed to be responsible to factoring service time into every decision we make," Levine said. "I still feel pretty resolute in saying that the other three factors were more present for us in this decision-making process than that. We wouldn't been doing our jobs if we weren't at least aware of service time impacts on decisions we make. Now, in terms of conversations with his agent. Displeased, disappointed for sure. Their recourse has not been laid out to us."
Buxton is not expected to play again this season for Triple-A Rochester either, and finishes the season hitting .156/.183/.200 with four doubles and no homers in 28 games with Minnesota.
The Twins also announced that 23-year-old Fernando Romero will be shut down for the year after hitting his innings limit. He worked 55 2/3 innings with the Major League club, while tossing 87 2/3 for Rochester.
Buxton is clearly the best defender on the team, and perhaps the best in baseball, but the Twins can point to his offensive troubles in the Majors and his wrist injury for reasons to send him home early. Outfielders who will get playing time over Buxton include Jake Cave, Johnny Field and Robbie Grossman.
"From this day forward, I think we recognize a responsibility to make amends," Levine said. "And that we're going to need to invest in the relationship with Byron Buxton moving forward, because I think as much as we would like to believe that all the relationship building here to date will carry the day, we understand this is a blow to the player, a potential blow to the relationship and we're prepared to try and stay as consistent as we can and reinvest in that element of this because we realized this was information that was not appealing or certainly collaborative."
Buxton has yet to directly speak with Levine or manager Paul Molitor, but Molitor said he plans to reach out in the coming days because he knows Buxton is disappointed and frustrated.
"I'll have a nice conversation with him," Molitor said. "I'll share my perspective. I'm sure this is tough for him. I haven't heard all the reactions coming out of his camp to this point. I'm sure there will be some. We'll try to get to where the understanding and the respect remains. I don't think it's going to be a problem between Byron and I."