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Twins Extension Candidates, part 1: Who is a clear option?

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It’s time that a young pitcher receives a contract extension.

MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at Minnesota Twins
HINT: It might be José Berríos.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This is the first part of a four-part series highlighting Minnesota Twins players that could be deserving of a contract extension. Today, we’ll look at clear-cut candidates that should be in line for a new contract.

A little over a year ago, the Twins front office made a big decision. They opened up the checkbook and made a dedication to the future of the franchise by signing shortstop Jorge Polanco and outfielder Max Kepler to contract extensions. The Twins will be paying the duo $60.75 million total through 2023. Falvine opened up the checkbook again this winter by extending now-first baseman Miguel Sano to a three-year, $30 million extension, locking in the slugger through 2022. Each players’ extension comes with at least one club option, and each extension seems team-friendly.

Minnesota has obviously become committed to keeping its young core that we’ve seen grow up to become the Bomba Squad last year, and hopefully for years to come. But will the Twins take a bigger step in extending a couple more of its young players? In this part, I’ll explore the idea of extending two young players that are (probably) deserving of an extension from the Minnesota front office.

José Berríos

The first-round draft pick from Puerto Rico has been highly thought of for many years, and the youngster is entering his fourth full season in the majors. The past two seasons, Berrios has been considered as the number one starter in the Minnesota rotation, and he seems to be in that role again this season. During his last three seasons, he’s put up respectable numbers: 3.80 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 9.0 K/9, 3.35 K/BB ratio, and has floated just below or reached the 200 innings and 200 strikeouts marks for the past two seasons.

It’s certainly not “ace” status, but as a young starter entering his age-26 season, the Twins and La Maꓘina have been working together to keep him fresh throughout the whole season and avoid a dip in pitch effectiveness later in the year. With the changes in workout routine, Berríos could be effective for most of the year, reversing the tide of his second-half stats (4.84 ERA, .264/.343/.413, 265 K, 112 BB, compared to career first-half totals of 3.70 ERA, .229/.289/.391, 320 K, 83 BB).

Looking to the future of the Twins’ starting rotation, newly-acquired Kenta Maeda is on the books the longest - through 2023 - and Michael Pineda inked a two-year deal with Minnesota this off-season, locking up two rotation spots through next year. Berríos just entered arbitration this winter, asking for $4.4 million and losing his hearing in favor of the Twins’ counteroffer of $4.025 million. Although that may leave a sour taste in the mouths of some, he’s being paid at what is considered the ceiling for pitchers of his caliber right now. However, even with two years of arbitration left before he tests free agency, the Twins could benefit from securing three to four more years of José Berríos in their rotation.

Below, I include some stats for five pitchers. One is Berríos’ combined last three seasons while the other four are the stats of pitchers’ three seasons combined prior to signing an extension with their respective teams prior to 2019:

  • 85 games (74 starts), 3.59 ERA (121 ERA+), 3.24 FIP, 455.2 IP, 516 K, 51 HR, 10.2 K/9, 4.23 K/BB
  • 80 games (80 starts), 3.32 ERA (127 ERA+), 3.12 FIP, 491.1 IP, 529 K, 45 HR, 9.7 K/9, 3.89 K/BB
  • 90 games (89 starts), 3.80 ERA (117 ERA+), 3.87 FIP, 538.1 IP, 536 K, 66 HR, 9.0 K/9, 3.35 K/BB
  • 74 games (74 starts), 2.95 ERA (139 ERA+), 3.45 FIP, 399.0 IP, 438 K, 36 HR, 9.9 K/9, 2.52 K/BB
  • 68 games (65 starts), 4.11 ERA (118 ERA+), 3.88 FIP, 378.2 IP, 392 K, 51 HR, 9.3 K/9, 3.50 K/BB

In order:

  • Luis Severino signed for four years, $40 million with a club option
  • Aaron Nola signed for four years, $45 million with a club option
  • Berríos’ 2017 through 2019 seasons
  • Blake Snell signed for five years, $50 million
  • Germán Márquez signed for five years, $43 million with a club option

Comparing him to four similar pitchers of similar qualities, it’s hard to see why the Twins and Berríos shouldn’t agree to an extension. Is four years for $43 million and a club option ($11 to $12 million) out of the question? Add some incentives (innings pitched, strikeouts, Cy Young, All-Star) and I believe the Twins and their number one starter would have themselves a deal, investing in La Maꓘina through his age-30 season.

Poll

Would you offer Berríos an extension at 4 yr/$43 million with a club option?

This poll is closed

  • 95%
    Yes
    (474 votes)
  • 4%
    No
    (24 votes)
498 votes total Vote Now

Byron Buxton

I will admit that I am not very high on Buxton and won’t be until he can string together a couple of seasons where he can stay healthy and play around 120 to 130 games each year. Don’t get me wrong - I do appreciate his dedication to the game, his speed, and his prowess in the outfield. I’d just like to see him consistently healthy and continuing to do his thing for most of the year instead of being just a clubhouse presence. With that being said, many fans still believe in Buxton, I’m interested to see how his season plays out, so I’ll entertain the idea of extending the star outfielder.

The speedy outfielder has definitely had his share of injuries - probably more than most players. He’s the recipient of a Gold Glove and Platinum Glove from 2017, both deserved. Branching off, we can see a glimpse of a full season of Buck by taking a look at his 2017 campaign. He batted .253/.314/.413 with an OPS+ of 93, stole 29 bases, and hit 16 homers. It was such a good year that the two sides were at least talking about an extension afterwards.

It’s followed by a dismal 2018 that was plagued early on by migraine issues and a toe injury, resulting in him spending most of the season in the minors. He did not receive a September call-up, and Thad Levine slipped up (business-wise) and stated that service time played a factor in the decision. This made Buxton a super-two, giving the Twins one more year of control over the center fielder. He and the Twins front office agreed to a salary of $1.75 million for 2019.

Although he played in about half the games in 2019, Buxton turned in respectable numbers. He carried his stolen base streak into 2019, ending it at 33 with a caught stealing at the Houston Astros in April. In the Year of the Juiced Ball, he hit 10 bombas and notched 46 RBI and would have eclipsed his career-best season totals from 2017 if he were able to play most of the year. A triple-slash of .262/.314/.513 and a 114 OPS+ are also career bests from 2019. So there’s potential for Buxton to continue to build upon a fruitful 2017 and 2019.

It would be unfair to compare Buxton to some of the other top-tier center-fielders in the league. Kevin Kiermaier amassed 364 games under his belt in the three seasons preceding his contract extension, accumulating a bWAR of 16.5 during that time. In 109 less games, Buxton has only 7.9 bWAR during the past three years. I don’t believe Buxton is comparable to George Springer considering the cheating scandal. Kiermaier currently is in a six-year $53.5 million contract, an average annual value (AAV) of about $8.917 million per year. If Buxton can play to the level of Kiermaier - both in the field (which is not in doubt) and at the plate - would four years $24 million be reasonable? It would certainly cement another outstanding outfielder in the grasses of Target Field for the (hopefully) championship years to come.

Poll

Would you offer an extension to Buxton at 4 yr/$24 million?

This poll is closed

  • 81%
    Yes
    (401 votes)
  • 18%
    No
    (91 votes)
492 votes total Vote Now