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Report: Twins are trying to sign Byron Buxton to long-term contract extension

Mlb: Kansas City Royals At Minnesota Twins
May 2, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton (25) looks on during an at bat against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

The Twins are trying to sign Byron Buxton to a long-term contract extension and likely will look to deal him if he rejects it, according to Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic.

Buxton, who is sidelined because of a fractured left hand, has been approached in the past about doing what could be considered team-friendly deals with the Twins but has turned those down. This offer, according to Rosenthal, is in excess of the $70 million the Yankees gave center fielder Aaron Hicks on a seven-year extension in February 2019.

The timing could be key because the July 30 MLB trade deadline is approaching and the disappointing Twins are expected to be sellers. Rosenthal leaves the door open that the Twins could look to move Buxton at the end of the month, if he rejects the long-term offer, but acknowledges Minnesota might get a better return for the talented but often-injured center fielder this offseason. Buxton is set to hit free agency after next season.

Rosenthal writes: A guarantee of even $100 million to Buxton would be a ridiculous bargain if he stayed healthy long-term. But only once has Buxton appeared in more than 92 games in a season — in 2017, when he played in 140. Over the past four seasons, he has played in only 38.2 percent of the Twins’ games, and his latest trip to the injured list is the 11th of his career.

Because of those injury concerns, the Twins’ latest proposal includes escalators and incentives that would increase its potential value, sources told Rosenthal. Buxton, the second pick in the 2012 MLB draft, got off to a fantastic start this season and is hitting .369/.409/.767 with 10 home runs and 19 RBIs. The speedy Buxton is also one of the best center fielders in the game today.

The issue is he has played in only 27 games. Buxton suffered a strained right hip in May that kept him out for 40 games. He then returned for three games last month before being hit on the hand by a pitch against the Reds on June 21. The Twins, who had been expected to contend for a third consecutive AL Central title, are sitting at 39-50, 15 games back of the first-place White Sox in the division.

Rosenthal’s report comes as the Twins also are thought to be listening to offers for righthanded starter Jose Berrios, who, like Buxton, will be eligible for free agency after the 2022 season. Both Berrios and Buxton are arbitration eligible after this season. It’s not certain if the Twins have recently approached Berrios about a long-term contract, but, if Minnesota feels it can’t sign him, he also could be moved at the deadline or this offseason.