How Correa convinced Buxton to become Twins’ DH

May 7th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Do-Hyoung Park’s Twins Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CLEVELAND -- Let it be known that when cooks an alfredo sauce, it apparently ends up being spicy -- as found out one March evening during Spring Training.

“They add a little bit more seasoning and spice,” Buxton said. “Like, heat. I ain't a spicy person. Had a little spice to it.”

It turns out that, in addition to what Correa does for the Twins on the field and in the clubhouse, he also has enough faith in his cooking ability to help prepare a meal for his fellow superstar teammate -- and use that as the focal point to get down to business and have a difficult baseball conversation.

So, over a home-cooked meal of chickpea pasta from Banza (Correa’s brand of choice), shrimp and lobster with the vaguely spicy alfredo sauce that took around an hour to throw together, Correa and Buxton sat down, and the shortstop made his case as it pertained to a challenging topic: Buxton’s value to the team might be maximized by pulling him out of center field and having him serve as the everyday designated hitter.

“We had a great conversation about the importance of this team and the things we want to accomplish this year as a team and how we want to win so badly,” Correa said. “It just felt like the thing that was best for him in his career was to show up to the plate 500, 600 times.”

This was, by no means, an easy conversation.

Throughout Buxton’s career, the 2017 Platinum Glove Award winner has put a great deal of pride in preparing every day to be one of the best defensive center fielders the game has ever seen. And even beyond that, Buxton has a tendency to overthink his at-bats and get too caught up in his own head. Center field has always offered him an escape -- to not even have the chance to stew over a bad at-bat and know that he can still help his team win the game with his glove.

But as Buxton’s older son, Brixton, watched a UFC fight on television in the corner, Correa presented his line of thought. (For the record: Brixton prefers basketball and football, but UFC was what was on.)

The Twins had acquired , another elite defensive center fielder. They didn’t already have an everyday DH on the roster. Buxton was coming off another surgery, and playing the outfield would add stress to his legs.

And this oft-cited stat speaks for itself: From 2019-22, the Twins were 166-113 (equivalent to a 96-win team) when he played. When he didn’t play, the Twins were 122-145 (equivalent to a 74-win team).

“We all know what he can do when he shows up to the plate,” Correa said. “I’m guessing 40 or 50 homers is something he can accomplish easily. … Him showing up to the plate every single day for four or five at-bats, that alone is going to give us so many more wins.”

Eventually, Brixton started getting tired around 11:30 p.m. (“That's why I left. We'd probably still be talking,” Buxton joked.) He still hadn’t fully made up his mind at that point.

Buxton took four or five more days to think. He reflected, in particular, about the trajectory of last season, about how much effort had to be focused into getting him ready, day after day, to put a flawed version of himself in center field and on the basepaths -- only to be sidelined when it mattered most, at the end of the season, as the team collapsed.

“I just kind of reflected on last year,” Buxton said. “Was it selfish? Was it not selfish? Things like that. Even though I played, it was still, in my opinion, selfish. I wasn't helping the team playing hurt. So it kind of put it in a little bit more perspective. If you're not helping the team and you're hurt, then you shouldn't go out there and try to push it.”

He thought hard about what would be best for the team -- and he made his decision. He would start the season at DH.

“That's my plan,” Buxton said. “Being in the lineup, day in and day out.”

And lest this be construed as one of the team’s superstars trying to influence the other into a decision he might not agree with, that wasn’t Buxton’s read of the situation; rather, he saw this as reflective of how deeply Correa and his teammates care and want him at their side, something he hadn’t heard vocalized so openly and often in clubhouses of seasons past.

“For me, it just kind of lets me know how much they care about who I am and how much I am to the team,” Buxton said. “It's a lot of guys in here. This team, I've heard it from quite a few guys. It's different.”

Do the Twins miss out by not taking advantage of Buxton’s elite defense? Sure. Have they sacrificed roster flexibility by keeping Buxton at DH? Absolutely.

But they’d argue that the plan has worked so far. The Twins are in first place in the American League Central. Buxton leads the team in homers (8), hits (28), and, surprisingly, on-base percentage (.341). He has played in 31 of the team’s 34 games and has taken more plate appearances than anyone but . He’s on pace for a 38-homer season, and that’s even accounting for a tough slump in mid-April.

Buxton and Correa will rely on each other a great deal in the years to come, their destinies intertwined in Minnesota through at least 2028. In that time, myriad serious baseball conversations will undoubtedly occur -- perhaps over more alfredo sauce and chickpea pasta since Correa has started cooking more for his sons to make sure they eat healthy. But seriously, Carlos, is the alfredo sauce actually spicy?

“Maybe a little bit, but I’m hanging out with Mexicans all the time,” Correa said. “My wife is Mexican, so I don’t think it’s spicy.”