Buxton's payday gamble: 'I love the city'

December 1st, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- Could have secured a bigger payday had he waited things out for his first shot at free agency a year from now? Quite possibly -- especially if he played at the superstar level he showed when he was healthy in 2021.

But that couldn't have been further from Buxton's mind on Wednesday as he addressed the media after signing a seven-year, $100 million extension that will keep him in Minneapolis through 2028.

Instead, over and over again, Minnesota's center fielder kept coming back to the same three ideas: Security. Comfort. Loyalty.

He feels all of those things while raising his family in the Twin Cities, while manning center field at Target Field, while wearing the Twins' uniform. That mattered to Byron and Lindsey Buxton as they mulled over the options for their future, and that's why they're going to remain in Minnesota, with a no-trade clause, through Buxton's age-34 season.

"My family took a big part of this," Buxton said. "They're comfortable here. The [comfort] here is a big key for what we want to do, and the stability, just knowing that we don't have to go anywhere, that we can put our boys through school and not really have to worry about it too much, is the biggest key.

"I love the city. I love the fans. I love the city. I love the organization. They were the first ones that gave me a chance to become who I am today. So for me, there's a lot of loyalty to this. That's how I was raised."

To say that Buxton has endured a lot to get to this point would be a gross understatement -- and that loyalty endured.

Plenty has been made of the extensive injury history that has seen Buxton appear in more than 92 games only once in his seven-year career. The Twins kept him in the Minors at the end of the 2018 season, leading to concerns of service-time manipulation. At the '21 Trade Deadline and beyond, Buxton had to tune out the swirling rumors, first regarding his extension talks, then about the possibility of his being traded away from the Twins.

General manager Thad Levine made a point to note on Wednesday that the Twins' first extension offer to Buxton came on March 17, 2017, kicking off a four-year negotiation that concluded Wednesday with a unique, incentive-laden contract that benefitted Buxton's talent and situation.

"Byron, Lindsey, his family, his representatives and everyone in the organization allowed us to get here," president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. "I think that's not just true in the contract structure and what we arrived at, but also in the player, in the human, in the man. He's been through a lot. He'd be the first to tell you that. He's had some incredible ups and some challenges along the way. And I think Byron Buxton represents everything we want this organization to be."

In addition to a $100 million guarantee over seven years, Buxton's incentives include an additional $8 million each year for an AL MVP Award, $7 million for finishing second in the voting, and so on down to $3 million for a finish between sixth and 10th. Buxton also carries $500,000 escalators for reaching 502, 533, 567, 600 and 625 plate appearances in a season.

There's also a no-trade clause that could ultimately keep him in Minnesota for the first 14 seasons of his career.

"Ultimately, it was so clear how much we wanted him here over the long term," Falvey said. "That was a key moment. I think we realized on all sides how important it was for him to want to be here, how much we wanted him. It just seemed natural on so many levels."

As Buxton was introduced Wednesday, he was surrounded by various artifacts commemorating the history of the Twins' organization and its most storied faces over the years -- and Buxton shared how one of those icons, Torii Hunter, actually called earlier in the day to share advice, from one fan-favorite center-field fixture to the next.

The Twins still need to get Buxton some help on the pitching side to arm the roster to add to those trophy cases, but they've now got their generational building block secure as a centerpiece working hard to ensure that Minnesota's risky investment in him will pay off.

"He’s a memory maker," Levine said. "When fans come to see him play, he’s making memories night in and night out. ... The future of everything we’re trying to do here is built around guys like Byron."