Minnesota Twins plan to start Byron Buxton in center field in 2024

Byron Buxton #25 of the Minnesota Twins collides with Lenyn Sosa #50 of the Chicago White Sox in the seventh inning of the game at Target Field on April 12, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the White Sox 3-1.  ((Photo by David Berding/Getty Images))

Major League Baseball is holding its annual winter meetings this week in Nashville, and the Minnesota Twins are one of the busy teams, coming off winning their third division title in five seasons.

The Twins need to bolster their starting rotation after Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda left for other teams in free agency. Pablo Lopez is the Opening Day starter, but the Twins need arms after that, and they might go to the trade market to get them. Otherwise, their current starting pitching possibilities are Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Louie Varland and Chris Paddack.

One of their big questions entering 2024 is the health of Byron Buxton. He didn’t play a single game in center field last season, only seeing that position in rehab stints with the St. Paul Saints at CHS Field. Buxton saw action in 85 games last season, strictly as a designated hitter, and had a .207 batting average with 17 homers, 17 doubles and 42 RBI.

But again, his inability to stay healthy forced the Twins to have Michael A. Taylor in center field a majority of the season. He played in 129 games, hitting .220 with 21 homers, 14 doubles and had 51 RBI last season. He made $4.5 million last season, and is now an unrestricted free agent.

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said Monday the plan is for Buxton to be in center field when the 2024 season starts. Buxton had a knee procedure in October and did a workout at Target Field last week. He will soon return to baseball activities. In speaking to reporters, Baldelli expressed cautious optimism on Buxton.

"It's December. Anyone that's rehabbing and coming back, you have a plan and then you have a different direction you can go if that plan doesn't work out exactly the way you want. But the news is positive so far. The little video clips that I get, they look good. He's doing well," Baldelli said. "We're going to go into spring training planning on, if everything continues to go well, having him out there in center field and very hopeful that the procedure he had puts him in the spot he needs to be in," Baldelli said, "but we also have to plan for everything, as usual."

Twins President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey was also optimistic about Buxton.

"Obviously we've gone through some challenges with Byron in center over the last couple of seasons. We also know if he's healthy and in a good place, there's nobody we're going to get that's going to have as much of an impact as Byron Buxton playing center field," Falvey said.

We’re still about 10 weeks out from Twins’ pitchers and catchers reporting for Spring Training in Fort Myers, Fla.