MINNEAPOLIS -- The uniqueness of the 2020 season has, so far, given way to a similarly unique offseason. That is most evident in the slew of free agents who remain unsigned, but it has also manifested in other ways -- including the lack of activity required of the Twins at
MINNEAPOLIS -- The uniqueness of the 2020 season has, so far, given way to a similarly unique offseason. That is most evident in the slew of free agents who remain unsigned, but it has also manifested in other ways -- including the lack of activity required of the Twins at Friday's noon CT deadline to exchange salary figures with arbitration-eligible players and come to an agreement.
It's been exceedingly rare for the Twins to go to arbitration in recent years, and they made doubly sure of that this offseason by agreeing to deals with all of their eligible players back in December at the non-tender deadline instead of waiting until closer to the arbitration deadline, as would typically be the case. All five eligible players -- José Berríos, Mitch Garver, Byron Buxton, Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers -- are already signed for 2021.
But is the Twins' work done with those players?
In the last two years, the club has been aggressive in signing several of its cornerstone players to extensions, buying out the remainder of their arbitration years and assuring control over the start of each player's original free agency. Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco and Miguel Sanó have all fallen under that umbrella, and all are under team control through at least 2023.
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Berríos and Buxton have most frequently been mentioned alongside those three players as candidates over the years. Would extensions still make sense in those cases?
There are clearly on-field arguments to be made for locking in both players, who could become free agents after two more seasons in Minnesota. Berríos has been consistent and largely healthy throughout his Twins career, and though the Twins have a string of top starting prospects rising through the system, the window of contention is open now, and Berríos is entering his prime at age 26. He's looking to be a success story in the organization's internal pitching development.
Buxton comes with considerable injury risk, but the fact that he's never been able to put together a complete season -- taking full advantage of his simplified swing, delivering a season's worth of full baserunning and defensive value -- could offer the opportunity for better value on a deal. All that ability is still there, and he showed off a new power stroke in 2020 as well, clubbing 13 homers in 39 games.
On the other hand, extensions for both Berríos and Buxton likely wouldn't resemble the relatively cost-controlled deals that came for Kepler, Polanco and Sanó. Considering the proximity of free agency for Berríos and Buxton, a deal with each could need to look more like an actual free-agent contract, which wouldn't come cheap considering their talent and the fact that they'd both hit free agency at age 28.
Berríos has reportedly chosen to bet on himself over the last few seasons and has maintained his level of performance, even making an effective playoff start against the Astros in the 2020 Wild Card Series. Even with his well-documented health issues, Buxton is still set to make $5.125 million in 2021, with another raise in arbitration due for '22.
All of the circumstantial uncertainty could make all this tougher, too. Not only is it more difficult for players and teams to properly evaluate performance in the 2020 season, that feeds forward into making it more difficult to project performance in years to come -- and that's not to mention all of the inherent uncertainty that still exists regarding the '21 season. Factor in the impending expiration of the collective bargaining agreement after this coming season, and even more hangs in the air.
The overarching question is whether the team sees Berríos or Buxton as part of the longer-term future -- and that's something they'll have to continue to evaluate amid all this turmoil.
Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.