The Twins line-up on Tuesday in Ft. Myers was as follows: Kepler RF, Polanco SS, Cruz DH, Donaldson 3B, Rosario LF, Garver C, Sano 1B, Gonzalez 2B, Cave CF
I see nothing not to like, maybe Arraez at 2B, but all in all, that’s a really good line-up. Obviously, it would be nice to see Buxton in CF, but can we really have it all? Actually, maybe if we can’t have it all, we can have something better than wishing for all of it to come together offensively. We can address our pitching even more than we’ve presently done.
To that end, I’m just going to say it. I really like Byron Buxton, and in the spirit of the political season all around us, I was against what I’m now going to say before I was for it. But now, I’m firmly for what I’m about to say…at least until I’m against it again. It’s time to shop Buxton around.
Last week I wrote about Rocco and my admiration for him. Within that piece, I suggested that my confidence in Falvey and Levine is high as well. Given that, I suspect that they are doing their due diligence in evaluating the trade market, so I’m not trying to do their jobs. Still, management, if you’re listening, we need you to be pursuing all options to get this team over the top this year. One of those options may be trading Byron Buxton for more pitching.
1991 was a very long time ago, for many of you reading this, it was literally more than a lifetime ago. We are more than ready to support management in going for it, even if that means letting go of some talent that might (and I emphasize might) make us regret it someday. People make mistakes, but generally only when they take chances, and it’s time to take some chances, risk versus reward and all of that.
Many of us spent the winter worrying about the Twins lack of pitching, and their less than entirely aggressive moves made to improve it. Maeda should help, and Hill might help, but all the talk about David Price or Noah Syndergaard or other top-line pitchers, proved to be just that, meaningless talk.
So, it’s time. Let’s address the elephant in the room. The Twins starting line-up looks amazingly potent. Even if the brunt of our position players have “average” years, it’s simply the best starting line-up we’ve had in a long time. Maybe ever. And we’ve had some good ones along the way. Kirby, Hrbek, Gaetti, Gladden etc…or Killebrew, Carew, Allison, Oliva to name a couple. One through eight, and rotating the ninth spot, this line-up is potentially championship worthy. So…let’s do it. Let’s make the move we really need to make, even if we must live in fear of what we potentially gave up. With trades come risk, but the potential reward is surely worth it.
It’s time for serious trade talks concerning Byron Buxton. I like Buxton, and I’m not suggesting that we give him away, but it’s time to seriously explore his market. When he’s “on” he’s the best defensive centerfielder in the game, and his bat can be good too. But he’s not “on” enough. He’s not healthy enough, and while his bat is continually improving, when you look at that line-up, it’s easy to project Buxton as the ninth best bat there? His speed is awesome, and we don’t have a lot of that, but given the power in the line-up, we don’t run anyway.
The truth is that we don’t need him as badly as we need more pitching. Getting serious about winning this year means more pitching. So, let’s consider moving Buxton who may turn out to be great for many years, for a top-line starting pitcher. Surely, he’s worth somebody good. His potential seems unlimited even now, as a 26-year old. That potential is what terrifies many of us about trading it away. But the truth is “unlimited potential” has, until now at least, been rather limited.
Between injury and at the plate struggles, the unlimited potential has been mostly rhetorical, rather than our reality. Maybe there’s a team out there, not quite as ready to challenge as the Twins seem to be, that would be interested in seemingly unlimited long-term potential in return for solid starting pitching (or top-line starting pitcher potential) that could help in the here and now.
What pitchers are available? I’m not a GM, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so I really have no idea…but…let’s seriously explore. I don’t suspect the Mets would consider trading us Jacob deGrom, but is Noah Syndergaard out of reach? If we find the market for Buxton far lower than many of us might hope, maybe the Marlins are a team to explore. They’re terrible, of course, but isn’t that precisely why they might want someone like Buxton, someone with vast long-term potential? Someone who might become a true and rare superstar.
The Marlins best pitcher is probably Sandy Alcantara, and his numbers were not good last year, but then again, he was on an awful team. Alcantara is also not free agency eligible until 2025, so the Marlins would have to get something significant to give up on someone with his potential. Perhaps someone with equal or even greater potential. Perhaps someone like Buxton.
Bert Blyleven spent much of his career on terrible teams and had his impressive numbers suppressed from what they might have been, had he been on better teams….maybe there’s another young Blyleven in the making out there, maybe that’s Alcantara. While he probably isn’t a future HOFer, he might be being overlooked playing on a bad team (full disclosure, when I first thought of bad teams, I naturally investigated the Orioles roster, but was horrified by what I saw there).
Speaking of the Orioles. Remember Kohl Stewart? He’ll be a starter for the Orioles and likely not their fifth starter. I’m not suggesting we trade with the Orioles, in fact, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, if this were the English Premier League, the Orioles might be in danger of being moved down.
So, without disparaging major leaguers, I mean, after all, they are major leaguers and I am most assuredly not, I nevertheless wouldn’t suggest trading for an Orioles starting pitcher, unless the price were nothing more than a mid-level minor leaguer. Speaking of minor leaguers, the twins have some guys who seem nearly ready to crack the everyday line-up…Alex Kirilloff? Moving Buxton opens up a spot for someone with potential who is even younger than Buxton. Our cupboard is hardly bare, and moving Buxton for pitching just opens up the possibilities for some up and coming talent.
Buxton is also getting near the point where he’s going to need to be paid. He isn’t a free agent until after 2021, so an argument could certainly be made that trading him now while he’s making only three million this year, isn’t financially sound. But it’s time to move beyond financial constraints determining all our decisions, as this team this year is simply potentially too good for that.
Buxton is the definition of cheap in MLB terms, but if he has a great year, he’s going to get paid, and if he has a bad year…well…then we should’ve traded him now. While I know the Pohlad family has the money, I also know they’re not all that interested in spending beyond their seemingly arbitrarily selected budgetary “constraints.” So that means decisions will have to be made, and on teams that operate within relatively modest budgets, it’s critical not to be paying people who are on the Injured List, and doesn’t that sort of define Byron Buxton’s career?
When Buxton is striding to a ball seemingly out of reach of all other centerfielders, we marvel at his ability, and we truly can envision him as our starting centerfielder for years to come. I wouldn’t be opposed to that at all. But the truth is, we can’t really count on that, we just all hope for that. What we could truly count on would be another solid starter who can take the mound every fifth day and give us a genuine chance to win the game. Thorpe, Smeltzer, and Dobnak, etc…are likeable nice guys who we hope finish first, but maybe it’s time to move beyond hope and straight into what could be a championship reality for this year.