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What’s the Twins’ plan for Byron Buxton?

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So, uh, I’m a little confused as to why Buxton isn’t up with the big club yet.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

When the Twins demoted Miguel Sano to Single-A a month ago, it was certainly a shock to the organization. At the same time, it also seemed like there was very much a plan in place regarding the move. The front office wanted Sano to work on his conditioning (strongly implied, if not outright said) as well as re-tool his batting approach (i.e. laying off a breaking pitch every once in awhile). So, while odd to see the HR Derby runner-up now beating the bushes in the back fields of Ft. Myers, this isn’t a scenario that is playing out willy-nilly:

When it comes to the Twins’ other franchise-cornerstone, Byron Buxton, however, things don’t seem nearly as thought-out or clear.

A quick review:

On April 18th, Buxton was placed on the 10-day DL due to migraine headaches. While rehabbing, he fouled a ball off his foot and suffered a hairline fracture to his left big toe. He rejoined the major league team on May 10 and played on an every-day basis until May 29, but it was clear that his greatest asset (speed) was severely compromised both in the field and especially on the bases. He also collected just six hits in 51 plate appearances over that span.

So, on May 30, Buxton was once again put on the DL, this time to get his toe/foot healed up. Last week, Byron was officially removed from his latest rehab stint...and optioned to Triple-A Rochester (essentially just staying there) instead of joining the Twins. No reason (official or otherwise) was given for the move.

To be honest, this leaves me scratching my head a bit. A player with the organizational status of Buxton being sent to Triple-A for no apparent reason? Hmmm.

First off, let’s get one thing out of the way right now: by all accounts, Buxton seems to be healthy. According to Baseball-Reference, he’s been an everyday player for the Red Wings since June 19th. I think (hope) the Twins learned their lesson from trying to rush him back earlier this season. So, we can likely cross “not healthy” off the list of reasons why he isn’t in Minnesota.

The next obvious reason would be performance-based, and I cannot refute that argument with the raw numbers (Buck is hitting in roughly the .220 range for Rochester so far and still whiffing at a less-than-ideal rate). Two things I would like to add into the mix here, though:

  1. The problem with Buxton has never been his ability to hit AAA pitching. There have been times when he’s absolutely raked down there, so I’m not sure I buy into the argument that he needs to “prove it” again.
  2. He’s always been a streaky hitter, so it is likely just a matter of time until his fortunes reverse. From what I recall, Buxton has had both ice-cold and burning-hot streaks at nearly every level of the Twins’ system.

This year, Byron was barely allowed a chance to break out of his early-season slump before the migraines hit and then the freak toe injury happened. By comparison, Logan Morrison keeps being penciled into the starting lineup despite production that is just as horrendous. So, the whole “we’re waiting to see offensive improvement from Buxton before we call him up” argument loses a bit of steam when compared to LoMo (or even Grossman, Kepler, etc.)

There also isn’t an egregiously better option to replace him. For awhile, the plan seemed to be to move Kepler over to CF and put Grossman in right, until the team remembered that Robbie in RF is not something anyone wants to see on a day-to-day basis. Ryan Lamarre got some rope out there, and was underwhelming enough to get DFA’d. Jake Cave has been fun to watch for a time, but I’m not sure he projects to be a starting center fielder, if a starting player at all.

A final reason for Buxton’s continued time on the farm is one that I really hope isn’t correct in any way, shape, or form. If he doesn’t accrue 13 more days of major league service time by the end of this season, his free agency would be delayed another year (until 2022). I really, really hope the Twins aren’t playing games with this fact, but I think it is worth noting nonetheless.

Now, I understand that there really is no reason to “rush Buxton back” to the majors from a competitive aspect. Even after a recent uptick in fortunes against the Orioles and Royals, the Twins still sit 8+ games back of the Indians, with playoff percentage odds hovering right around 0.3% the last time I checked. I don’t like completely throwing in the towel like that, but I’m also trying to be realistic. However, if indeed Buxton is healthy, I am of the opinion that he should be playing every day for the major league club. At this point, I don’t know what can be gained/learned from having him toil in Rochester day after day (besides the face-saving of hoping to be able to call him up with better statistics).

Unlike the Sano situation, which has been clearly laid out, Buxton’s potential return to the Twins is a lot cloudier and less-addressed. Despite the oft-struggles at the plate, I like the overall energy he brings to this team, and I think the Rosie-Buck-Kep OF elevates this team higher than perhaps the sum of its parts. The recent chic social media campaign is #WillYouAcceptThisRosie. After the All-Star break, could #FreeByronBuxton be next?

Poll

Assuming Byron Buxton is completely healthy, do you want him on the Twins’ roster right now?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    Yes, he has nothing more to prove in the minors and may always just be a streaky hitter
    (713 votes)
  • 46%
    No, I want to see him produce better numbers in AAA before he returns
    (623 votes)
1336 votes total Vote Now