The idea behind these moves was to get something in return for Cruz, a pending free agent, and Berrios, who still had another year of control after 2021 but was going to command a hefty contract eventually.
But the true reasoning behind those decisions was saving money for a Byron Buxton extension.
After months of on-and-off negotiations, the Twins and their star center fielder reached an agreement on Sunday, on a seven-year, $100 million pact that will keep him in Minnesota for a while.
The contract included a $1 million signing bonus and will earn the star center fielder $9 million in 2022, which was scheduled to be his last season of arbitration eligibility.
From 2023 until the expiration of his deal in 2028, Buxton will collect $15 million per season.
There is also a crucial no-trade clause that was likely the deciding factor for Buxton.
Source: Huge key for the Byron Buxton extension was the no-trade clause. #MNTwins didn’t make it available in July. They did this time and it meant more to Buxton than additional money.
— danhayesmlb (@DanHayesMLB) November 29, 2021
The contract also has MVP bonuses for every year, giving him an extra $3 million if he finishes in the top-10 of the voting and increasing to $8 million if he wins it.
$1M signing bonus.
2023-28-$15M per season
MVP bonuses, believed to be unprecedented, for every year of deal.
Also: $500K each for 502, 533, 567, 600 and 625 plate appearances. https://t.co/leTEjfa4wR
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 28, 2021
Signing Buxton To An Extension Was A Necessary Step To Keep Moving Forward
Locking up Buxton for the long haul was always the preferred route of the Twins’ front office, and it was the right move.
Buxton has always had the injury-prone label, and to be fair, it’s somewhat deserved.
He has participated in 355 out of 708 possible games since 2017, or 50.14 percent.
That’s a really low percentage, but some of his injuries have been fluky.
In any case, the Twins knew there was some risk here.
However, they needed to make sure their most talented player was signed long-term.
He only played in 61 games during the 2021 season, a bit more than a third of the campaign.
That was enough, however, for him to lead the Twins in Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, with 4.2.
He is truly one-of-a-kind.
A Special Player
In addition to his elite defense in center field, he hit a strong .306/.358/.647 with 19 homers and 32 RBI.
Buxton produced 69 percent more than the average, as evidenced by his 169 wRC+.
The wRC+ stat means weighted Runs Created Plus, a metric that consider offensive performance and considers era, ballpark, and other factors.
For wRC+, 100 is considered average: 169 is really, really special.
However, Buxton achieved this level of offensive performance over a small sample size (61 games, 254 plate appearances), so he has a lot to prove in 2022 and beyond.
The Twins now enter a new era in which, after a down 2021, they intend to contend again.
They won’t have Berrios, who signed a mammoth $131 million extension with the Toronto Blue Jays a few days ago, and they probably won’t have Kenta Maeda next year either, as he recovers from a long-term arm injury.
As long as Buxton is on the roster and healthy enough to play, Minnesota will have a chance.
Competing in 2022 will depend on the development of many prospects and young players, but now, they have their star player leading the way for the foreseeable future, and that’s huge.