Did Byron Buxton play his final game at Target Field as a member of the Twins on Thursday?
That’s a possibility considering Buxton is set to be a free agent after the 2022 season and there is a chance Twins baseball boss Derek Falvey won’t want to risk losing the center fielder without getting something back. Buxton is eligible for arbitration this offseason, but Falvey could look to deal him. It’s likely the Twins will try to sign Buxton to a long-term deal before they start making calls.
The Twins made an offer to Buxton this summer — reportedly a seven-year, $73 million deal, that the Twins eventually increased to $80 million — but talks broke off. Buxton, one of the best center fielders in the big leagues, entered Thursday with a slash line of .292/.349/.597 with 16 home runs, 28 RBIs and nine stolen bases in 57 games.
He then provided a reminder of why the Twins should want to keep him long term. Buxton led off for the Twins with a home run and finished 3-for-5 with two homers and a double in a 10-7 loss to Detroit. The Twins will close the season this weekend in Kansas City.
The issue with the 27-year-old Buxton is that he has dealt with numerous injuries during his seven-year major league career and this season has been no different as he missed significant time because of a strained right hip and fractured left hand. Buxton has made a total of 11 trips to the injured list during his big-league career.
There is a risk no matter what decision the Twins make, but trading a guy with a skill set like Buxton’s wouldn’t be a popular move for a franchise that already is going to struggle to sell tickets for 2022. (This is assuming a new collective bargaining agreement gets done and we don’t have a strike or lockout.)
- The Vikings’ offensive line will have its hands full on Sunday going against Browns All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett, who had 4.5 of his team’s nine sacks last Sunday against the Chicago Bears. Garrett’s 5.5 sacks lead the NFL. That is one-half sack more than Chandler Jones has for the Arizona Cardinals. Jones had all five of his sacks in Week 1 against the Titans, but none the following week against a Vikings’ offensive line that has shown improvement since struggling in its opening game against the Bengals. Garrett, 6-4, 272-pounds, has spent time playing at left and right end this season and also has been moved inside to provide a pass rush.
- Former Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who will return Sunday as coach of the Browns, won’t be the only familiar face on the opposing side. Former Vikings assistants on Stefanski’s staff include Chad O’Shea, pass game coordinator and wide receivers coach; Kevin Rogers, senior offensive assistant; Joe Woods, defensive coordinator; and Mike Priefer, special teams coordinator. Former Vikings strength and conditioning coach Evan Marcus is the Browns’ assistant strength and conditioning coach.
- Former Gophers star wide receiver Rashod Bateman was activated from injured reserve by the Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday after missing time because of a groin injury he suffered in training camp. Bateman was taken 27th overall in the first round by the Ravens last April and could make his NFL debut on Sunday against the Broncos.
- Despite his hot start this season, Kirk Cousins is 10th in NFL.com’s weekly quarterback rankings. That’s up three spots from last week. Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady leads the rankings and is followed by Dallas’ Dak Prescott and Las Vegas’ Derek Carr. Cousins could find himself in the Top 5, if the Vikings are able to beat the Browns and he has another big game against a good Cleveland defense.
- The NHL’s crackdown on cross-checking is very real (just watch a preseason game) and is going to slow games early in the season as players adjust to the enforcement of a rule that was ignored too often in the playoffs last season.
- Bob Motzko, coach of the Gophers men’s hockey team, has agreed to a three-year contract extension that will increase his salary to $660,000 per year. The contract will run through the 2025-26 season. The Gophers will open the season on Saturday against Alaska.
- The Timberwolves will play seven of their first eight games at Target Center and 11 of their first 16 at home. This includes a three-game homestand to open the season, followed by a one-game trip to play the NBA champion Bucks and then a four-game homestand.
- Final thought: Major League Baseball needs to do something about pitch framing by catchers. This used to be an art, but now it’s turned into every catcher completely relocating as many pitchers as possible and making no attempt to subtly move the ball. The plate umpire is expected to enforce the strike zone and it’s impossible to do with catchers moving their gloves from outside the zone and into it on nearly every pitch.