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Minnesota Twins Juan Minaya Jersey

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MINNEAPOLIS — The first offer came from the Minnesota Twins nearly five years ago, initiating their attempt to sign center fielder Byron Buxton to a long-term contract and keep a potential superstar from reaching free agency and a bidding frenzy on the open market.

Getting this $100 million deal done required ample patience, creativity and respect from both sides, but the tipping point was simply the deep desire by Buxton to stay in Minnesota with the only franchise he’s ever been with.

He’ll be with the Twins for at least the next seven seasons, with a full no-trade clause to ensure it.

“This is our home here. The stability here for me and my family and my kids to stay here through school, let ’em play baseball, fishing, whatever it may be. Comfortability level was a big key for us,” said Buxton, who finalized the contract on Wednesday before a news conference with president of baseball operations Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine.

Buxton turns 28 later this month. His wife, Lindsey, and sons, 7-year-old Brixton and 17-month-old Blaze, attended the event held at a lounge and bar area inside Target Field.

“I love the fans. I love the city. I love the organization. They were the first ones that gave me a chance to become who I am today. So for me, there’s a lot of loyalty to this. That’s how I was raised,” said Buxton, who was the second overall pick in the 2012 draft out of high school in rural Georgia.

If the driving force in the negotiations was loyalty, the complicating factor was his injury history. The Twins were naturally cautious with their commitment, considering Buxton has played in more than 92 games only once (2017) in his first seven major league seasons, but Buxton and his representatives fully realized his ability to be an MVP-caliber player if he can stay in the lineup.

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To help bridge the gaps, there are hefty incentives in the deal — “unprecedented,” Falvey said — based on his finishes in the American League MVP voting.

“He believes he is one of the best players in the game when he’s on the field, and we believe it, too,” Falvey said.

Al Goetz, one of Buxton’s agents, credited Levine for being the “front-runner in never giving up” on completing the contract.

“It’s just not being willing to say no,” said Goetz, whose agency, Jet Sports Management, counted Hall of Famer Chipper Jones as its first client. Jones played his entire 19-year major league career with the Atlanta Braves.

Goetz and Levine had one of their in-person talks at Target Field in June, the same day Buxton was hit by a pitch and broke his pinky finger.

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“There were a few times I was on the mat after seven or eight and I staggered to my feet and felt like I could go a few more rounds,” Levine said. “It felt like the right thing to do, and we’re all energized to be here today, being able to celebrate this moment with Byron.”

The Twins are 118-69 (.631) in the 187 games that Buxton has played in over the last three seasons. They’re 92-105 (.467) without him. In 636 at-bats in that span, Buxton has 56 doubles, 42 home runs and a robust .897 OPS mark.

In 2021, Buxton’s 4.5 wins above replacement rating, as calculated by Baseball Reference, was the highest single-season mark in major league history by a player who appeared in 70 games or fewer.

He won the 2017 Platinum Glove Award, given to the best defensive player regardless of position in each league. He’s 71 of 81 on stolen base attempts, the best percentage over his seven-year career among all major league players with a minimum 50 tries.

“The biggest thing for me now is winning as many rings as I can to bring back to Minneapolis. That’s my biggest focus. I don’t have that scariness of, ‘Am I going to be here?’ anymore,” Buxton said.

As the injuries piled up and the pressure to perform increased, Buxton struggled at the plate throughout much of the first half of his tenure with the Twins. He credited then-hitting coach James Rowson, now the bench coach for the Miami Marlins, for rebuilding his self-confidence.

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“You feel like a bag of rocks you’re toting around all the time, but 2017 was probably a turnaround year,” Buxton said. “J-Row here, worked in the cage each and every day and got my swing right.”

Rowson flew in to Minnesota to attend the news conference on Wednesday.

“He told me each and every day, ‘You’re the best player,'” Buxton said. “I just went out, played baseball and stayed even-keeled.”

The Twins also agreed this week to terms on one-year contracts to avoid salary arbitration with right-handed relievers Jharel Cotton ($700,000) and Tyler Duffey ($3.8 million) and left-handed reliever Caleb Thielbar ($1.3 million). Left-handed reliever Taylor Rogers, catcher Mitch Garver and infielder/outfielder Luis Arraez were tendered contract offers and are eligible for arbitration.

Cotton was claimed off waivers from Texas last month. Left-handed reliever Danny Coulombe and right-handed relievers Trevor Megill and Juan Minaya were not tendered contracts and became free agents. Megill was claimed off waivers from the Chicago Cubs.

Earlier in the offseason, right-handed reliever Alex Colomé had his contract option declined and became a free agent. Right-handed starters Michael Pineda and John Gant and shortstop Andrelton Simmons were the only other significant players who became free agents.

There is much more work to be done on the roster to get the Twins back into contention after their 73-89 nosedive into last place last year, but by securing Buxton they’ve got the type of major impact player — assuming he’s available for the majority of the games — they can’t just find in the farm system or on the market.

“We view this as a championship-caliber team, but he is a central figure to that,” Levine said. “He’s a memory-maker. When fans come to see him play, he’s making memories night in and night out.”

Kansas City Royals Dylan Coleman Jersey

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Offseason signings of broken pitchers is something the KC Royals do. Two winters ago, they brought back Greg Holland, their former star closer, and also signed Trevor Rosenthal, KC manager Mike Matheny’s closer for a time in St. Louis, when both were once-premiere relievers beset more recently by injuries and ineffectiveness. And last winter, the club took a chance on Wade Davis.

So well did Rosenthal and Holland work out that Rosenthal immediately became the Royals’ closer and a main trade deadline attraction—KC sent him to San Diego for Edward Olivares and Dylan Coleman—and Holland assumed his old closer role when Rosenthal departed. The Davis deal, though, all but failed because he couldn’t shake his injury bug and wasn’t consistently good when healthy.

Now, courtesy of the Cincinnati Reds, the Royals may have another reclamation project candidate.

Brandon Finnegan.

Yes, the very same Brandon Finnegan whose meteoric one-season rise from first round Kansas City draft pick to the World Series in 2014 made him a darling of KC fans hungry for new heroes. The Cincinnati organization recently released Finnegan, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2018.

The apparent end of his Cincinnati tenure isn’t surprising. Finnegan came to the Reds in mid-2015, their chief return in the trade deadline deal that sent Johnny Cueto to Kansas City and a World Series title. Cincinnati also received John Lamb and Cody Reed, but Finnegan was the team’s primary target.

And with good reason. The Royals made Finnegan their top draft pick just the year before, a season in which he helped Texas Christian University into the College World Series, signed with Kansas City, became a reliever, then pitched five times at High-A Wilmington and eight at Double-A Northwest Arkansas before the Royals decided his allowing only four runs in 27 innings justified rushing him to the big leagues.

Undaunted by hitting center stage so quickly, Finnegan posted a 1.29 ERA in seven games, made Kansas City’s postseason rosters, and worked five playoff games and two in the Series.

Despite his fast start, Kansas City assigned him to Northwest Arkansas to begin the 2015 campaign. A late April recall was the first of four round trips he’d make between Kauffman Stadium and the minors before the Cueto trade; Finnegan pitched well when with the Royals, going 3-0 with a 2.96 ERA in 14 relief appearances. Only a three-run, one-inning outing against Toronto in mid-July seriously tainted his record.

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The Royals’ desire to land Cueto, however, outweighed their interest in keeping Finnegan.

Things deteriorated for Brandon Finnegan after the KC Royals traded him.
Becoming the only pitcher ever to pitch in the World Series and College World Series in the same year remains Finnegan’s most significant claim to fame, a circumstance unforetold by his talent, potential, and first few months in the majors. Subsequent events simply haven’t been kind to him.

The Reds made Finnegan a starter again, first in the minors and then in a September call-up to Cincinnati. He was good in his first and final Reds’ starts of the season, winning both and surrendering just two runs over 11 innings, but giving up nine runs in 10 innings caused him to lose the other two.

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Finnegan’s 10 victories in 2016 were the second-best for last place Cincinnati, but he suffered from an excessive 4.4 BB/9. Shoulder issues nagged him throughout 2017 and limited him to four major league and three minor league starts.

A horrible start to 2018—he was 0-3 with a 7.40 ERA by May 6—triggered Finnegan’s demotion to Triple-A, where he spent the rest of the season and struggled to 2-10 with an ugly 7.05 ERA, by far the worst record of his professional career.

The lefthander spent 2019 in Double-A (1-0, 6.60) and last season in Triple-A (4-3, 5.53) battling his control. He walked 10 in 15 innings in 2019 and 36 in 55.1 in 2021. His major and minor league career BB/9s leave much to be desired: 4.63 in the bigs, 4.95 on the farm.

The organization released Finnegan Nov. 18. Once a can’t-miss prospect sitting atop the baseball world, he now looks for work in a market rendered uncertain by an almost certain lockout.

Should the KC Royals make Brandon Finnegan their latest reclamation project?
Kansas City should leave few stones unturned in seeking pitchers to plug the holes in its rotation and bullpen (especially the rotation). Is Finnegan someone the club should seriously consider?

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Probably not. Unlike Rosenthal, Holland and Davis, all of whom enjoyed sustained and meaningful success, Finnegan’s best moments remain confined to 2014, 2015 and 2016, seasons too remote to provide promise of him reclaiming bygone form.

For whatever reason or reasons, Finnegan long ago lost that which made him so good in college and the earliest stages of a now-soured professional career. Little in his performance since 2016 suggests he has much to offer any club, including the KC Royals.

Signing Finnegan is, of course, a low-risk proposition because he can’t reasonably demand, much less expect, a big contract. But last season’s minor league contraction left fewer spots for players of any position, and the Royals shouldn’t hand one of those spots to, or expend resources on, Finnegan when more promising pitchers need the work.

NEXT:Clint Frazier isn’t a KC solution
New free agent Brandon Finnegan generated some good memories for KC Royals fans. But the club doesn’t need to bring him back.

San Francisco 49ers Jeff Wilson Jersey

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The 49ers will be without running back Elijah Mitchell in Week 15 versus the Falcons, meaning Jeff Wilson will likely be the team’s starter on the ground.

Ideally, the San Francisco 49ers would be truly at full strength for their Week 15 home game against the 6-7 Atlanta Falcons.

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At this time of the year, though, that’s a pipe dream. Although the Niners are experiencing a better run of health at this point in 2021 than they did a year ago, which is a good thing in terms of head coach Kyle Shanahan’s playoff prospects.

Nevertheless, Shanahan will be without his starting running back for Week 15, rookie Elijah Mitchell, who was ruled out and will be inactive after suffering a concussion during San Francisco’s Week 13 road loss to the Seattle Seahawks, subsequently missing Week 14 at the Cincinnati Bengals, too.

Mitchell has been a surprising find but has also dealt with a number of injuries his first year as a pro, and he found himself again populating the list of 49ers inactives.

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49ers inactives for Week 15 vs. Falcons
Mitchell has played in nine of the soon-to-be 14 games from the Niners this season, and he’s joined by a number of players who have found themselves inactive over the course of the year.

San Francisco won’t be dressing the following players:

RB Elijah Mitchell
LB Dre Greenlaw
OL Colton McKivitz
LB Azeez Al-Shaair
DL Maurice Hurst
Linebacker could still be a bit sticky for the 49ers, too, with Al-Shaair (shoulder) and Greenlaw (groin) out, meaning a combination of Marcell Harris and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles will be tasked with lining up alongside All-Pro Fred Warner versus Atlanta.

Jeff Wilson likely to start at running back for 49ers
Mitchell’s absence last week prompted Shanahan to insert veteran rusher Jeff Wilson Jr. into the fray as the Niners’ starter last week, and he churned out 56 rush yards on 13 carries in his first start of the year.

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Read More: 49ers vs. Falcons: Week 15 injury report, betting odds and how to watch

San Francisco is also without fellow rookie running back Trey Sermon (ankle), meaning the only other healthy halfback on the roster behind Wilson is second-year pro JaMycal Hasty.

Although it wouldn’t be shocking to see the 49ers use wide receiver Deebo Samuel as a runner, as they’ve done frequently this season.

The Niners and Falcons kick off on Sunday, Dec. 19 at 4:05 p.m. ET from Levi’s Stadium.