FORT MYERS, FLA. – Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco and Miguel Sano have all signed contract extensions with the Twins before reaching the six-year minimum necessary to declare free agency. Byron Buxton is hoping the team has one for him, too.
"Two [or] three days ago, my agents talked a little bit about [a] contract," Buxton said after collecting a hit and scoring a run in the Twins' two-inning game with the Red Sox on Saturday. "I'm not sure how far they are, but apparently there's a little bit of discussions about it. I try not to worry about that too much."
Still, it's an opportunity for the Twins to keep another part of their young core together for several more seasons. Buxton, who agreed to a $5.125 million contract for this season, is eligible for free agency after the 2022 season, and as an elite defender and perhaps the game's fastest runner who has also developed reliable power, he figures to command the Twins' biggest salary since Joe Mauer's $23 million annual paycheck.
"Of course I would love an extension. Obviously, I've been blessed to stay with this one team in my career, so to be able to put on this career and go out there every day, it's something that many guys can't do," said Buxton, who turned 27 in December. "I want to be one of those guys that was there with that one team. This place just means a lot."
That's probably heartening news to the Twins, since Buxton was upset with the organization in 2018, when President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey chose not to call him up from Class AAA Rochester in September. Doing so would have credited Buxton with a full year of MLB service time for that injury-riddled season and allowed him to become a free agent this winter instead of next.
"It didn't go over well," Buxton said two months after that, and General Manager Thad Levine acknowledged that the team had some repairs to make in that relationship.
A contract extension for their starting center fielder, who hit 13 home runs in only 39 games last year, would accomplish that. But Buxton said it's not about the money.
"Money doesn't mean nothing to me. I go out there, I play baseball for the fun of it. It's the passion and the love that you have for the game," he said. "You don't go out there to play for money. If you go play for money, you won't be worth nothing. It's just one of those things where, if the time comes and I'm busting up and we get a contract extended, that's great."
He also objected to the notion that his injury history makes a long-term contract more enticing.
"I can't really push the issue there and say that, just because I'm hurt, I'm going to sign," Buxton said. "I don't give a damn about how many times I've been injured. It's what I do on the field, and I know I'm going to neon the field. It's just one of those things where you can't wait to see what happens."
Rain limits game
Twins righthander Michael Pineda no-hit Boston for two innings, and a spring shower took care of the rest. With the grass getting wet, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli and Red Sox counterpart Alex Cora decided to call off the rest of the scheduled five-inning game with the Twins leading 2-0 at JetBlue Park.
"We just didn't want to take the risk of someone slipping and hurting themselves out there," Baldelli said. "It's just not worth the risk."
Pineda struck out four of the six hitters he faced, and finished his first two innings of the spring by getting former Twins teammate Marwin Gonzalez to ground out.
"It's two innings, but I feel good," Pineda said. "I'm excited to get back to throwing."
The Twins scored to runs on Buxton's single, a two-out triple to center field by second baseman J.T. Riddle and a bad-hop single by shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin.
Weather permitting, the Twins will face Tampa Bay on Sunday at Hammond Stadium, with Lewis Thorpe making his second start. Alex Colome, who was to pitch in the rain-shortened game, will work Sunday instead, Baldelli said.