The Twins and Byron Buxton will avoid arbitration, with the 25-year-old center fielder getting a one-year contract worth slightly more than $1.7 million.
Two sources close to the negotiations confirmed the deal, which comes as major league teams try to reach contracts with arbitration-eligible players before Friday’s filing deadline.
Buxton made $580,000 in 2018, when he played in only 28 major league games during an injury-plagued year. He played 35 games at Class AAA Rochester trying to find his swing, hitting .272.
The Twins did not bring Buxton back to the majors in September, a move that ensured he would not gain enough service time to become a free agent until after the 2022 season instead of 2021 — he is 13 days shy.
“Yes. I ain’t sugarcoating nothing,” he said Dec. 11 when asked of his displeasure with the decision. “It kind of didn’t go over well.”
Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey responded by saying Buxton will be the starting center fielder.
“I feel as soon as Byron gets around his teammates and we get things moving, going forward, he’s going to be exactly what we expect him to be. And we are going to support him to be the best possible player he can be,” Falvey said.
Buxton’s deal exceeds the $1.2 million salary he was projected to receive by the MLBTradeRumors.com. If he has a bounce-back season, he will have a higher jumping off point for his second arbitration season.
The Twins have quite a lot of work remaining. Pitchers Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson, Taylor Rogers and Trevor May; outfielders Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler; and third baseman Miguel Sano also are eligible for arbitration.
If teams and players don’t reach agreements Friday, both sides propose a salary number. They can still reach an agreement before an arbiter chooses the winner.
The Twins have been pleased with Sano’s conditioning. The team allowed him to join Estrellas for the final games of the Dominican winter league playoffs.
It doesn’t appear that he will play if Estrellas moves on to the Caribbean Series, which starts Feb. 2.
In his first game Tuesday, Sano hit a three-run homer. He has been the designated hitter in his three games.
Twins General Manager Thad Levine flew to the Dominican Republic on Wednesday to watch Sano and meet with staff there.
• Marney Gellner will be the play-by-play announcer on three of the 11 Twins games televised by Fox Sports North from spring training. Gellner, who does play-by-play for the Lynx on FSN and is a sideline reporter at Timberwolves and Twins games, will work with Dan Gladden for games on March 1, 3 and 4.
• The Twins are trying to finalize details on a one-year deal with 33-year-old righthander Blake Parker, who was 2-1 with a 3.26 ERA and 14 saves for the Angels last season.
• The Twins signed catcher Tomas Telis and pitcher Dario Alvarez to minor league contracts. The switch-hitting Telis, 27, played in 23 games for Miami in 2018. Alvarez, 29, is a lefthander who spent most of last season at Class AAA Tacoma in the Cubs organization.