I could have, and perhaps even wanted to, let this go — just absorb the words, know it was a bad idea but probably just an idle suggestion in passing, and move on.
I couldn’t do it, though.
And so here it is: in an item on the Twins at SI.com, writer Jeremy Fuchs uses this weekend’s Twins sweep in Cleveland — the first of its kind since 1991, the last time Minnesota won the World Series, of course — as a device for heaping some praise on the local nine.
He gets it mostly right, starting with Ervin Santana, noting Miguel Sano’s huge impact, perhaps overstating the contributions of the inconsistent Eddie Rosario and correctly mentioning the solid years of Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier as reasons for the team’s offensive success.
But then there’s this: “The Twins certainly need more pitching behind Santana, who is more than carrying the load. But with someone like Byron Buxton to dangle, they might be able to make something work.”
Sorry, I just can’t let go of how much I disagree with that sentiment.
The Twins are having a nice, surprising season. Buxton has continued to struggle at the plate, but he should be considered one of a handful of players in the organization who is untouchable as the Twins attempt to build from “above-average half-season” to a string of contending years. But even if you don’t agree about Buxton’s potential, here is the stronger argument:
Trading Buxton for a pitcher likely upgrades one spot on your staff. But taking away his defense immediately makes everyone else on the staff worse.
The Twins have been among the best defensive teams in MLB this season. FanGraphs has them at plus-21 defensive runs saved — a measure of runs saved above the average player. Buxton himself is a plus-14! He’s certainly helped the aforementioned Santana, who has a FIP (fielding independent pitching, a metric that strips away defensive contributions and works along the same scale as ERA) of 4.58 but an ERA of 2.80.
Even as a .200 hitter, Buxton is one of the most important reasons for the Twins’ improvement this season. Trade him for a pitcher, and the net effect on the team ERA would be zero (at best), while the future regret could be massive.
I’m sure the Twins would never do this, anyway. Thank you for indulging my rant.