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What Will the Twins do with Miguel Sanó?


We all know that Miguel Sanó can be one of the best hitters in baseball at times. He can also be one of the worst hitters in baseball at times. Sanó’s inconsistency is giving the Twins a big question heading into 2022? What will they do with Miguel Sanó?

In the first half of the 2021 season, Sanó hit .196/.279/.426 (.705) while hitting 15 home runs, but he struck out 36 percent of the time. His 36% strikeout rate in the first half was the third highest in all of MLB (min. 200 plate appearances).

Sanó’s second half was much better offensively, as he hit .250/.343/.504 (.847) with 15 home runs once again. His hard hit rate went up from 50 percent to 60 percent, so he was hitting the ball hard more consistently.

Bombs Away
When Sanó makes contact, he makes some of the hardest contact in the league. Since debuting in 2015, Sanó has the sixth highest average exit velocity among all MLB hitters, behind only Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Nelson Cruz, Fernando Tatis Jr., and David Ortiz. In 2021, he was in the 99th percentile of hard hit rate and the 97th percentile of average exit velocity. He was also in the 97th percentile of all hitters in barrel %, a metric used to show how consistently a player can square the ball up in the air. Sanó has the 11th most home runs in Twins history and he will be in at least ninth after the 2022 season. He has also hit five of the ten longest home runs for the Twins in the statcast era (2015-present), including this 495 foot blast at Fenway Park in 2021.

Not all Rainbows and Sunshine
However, Sanó’s limiting factor is that he does not exactly make the most consistent contact. In the history of the Minnesota Twins, Sanó’s career 36.5 percent strikeout rate is the highest in Twins history (min. 1000 PA). Since 2000, among all MLB hitters with at least 1000 plate appearances, Sanó has the third highest strikeout rate behind Keon Broxton and Joey Gallo.

Sanó is also not a viable defender at first base. In 2021, Sanó was worth -5 Defensive Runs Saved and was last among all first basemen in UZR, a metric that measures a player’s defensive worth while taking their range into account.

Options Going Forward
According to Spotrac, Sanó is due to make $9.25 million in 2022. After 2022, the Twins have a club option of $14 million on Sanó in 2023, which means that the Twins can decide if they want to keep Sanó in 2023 for $14 million. If they don’t pick up the option, Sanó will be a free agent. What will the Twins do with Sanó? Here are three options:

Option One: Trade Sanó before the 2022 season
The first option the Twins have is that they could forgo paying Sanó $9.25MM in 2022 and trade him. In return, the Twins could receive some young starting pitching so they can get some value out of Sanó if they choose to punt in 2022. The Twins could receive some young pitching in return and set up for success in 2023 and 2024.

Option Two: Pick up the $14 million option
If Sanó has an outstanding 2022 season, the Twins could choose to exercise his $14 million option and keep him on the team through 2023. If Sanó has another season like he did in 2019, in which he had a .923 OPS and 34 home runs, the Twins should pick up the option. Sanó has always had the potential to put together a great season and he has shown flashes of excellence during his seven year tenure with the Twins.

Option Three: Let Sanó play the 2022 season and don’t pick up the option
In my opinion, this is the most likely option for the Twins. If Sanó has another season like we are used to seeing from him, the Twins will not pick up his option and let him become a free agent. Sanó has never posted a WAR above 3 in a season and at times can be a major offensive liability.

The Twins have bigger holes on their roster than first base as Alex Kirilloff has shown he can be a good option there. In a rookie season filled with bad luck, Kirilloff still had an OPS just 56 points lower than Sanó and with more batted ball luck Kirilloff could likely be a more consistent hitter and a better option than Sanó. Additionally, Kirilloff was better defensively at first base than Sanó in 2021. Here are a few statistics that show Kirilloff’s defensive superiority to Sanó:

                             

Outs Above Average

          Defensive Runs Saved

          Ultimate Zone Rating

Kirilloff

               2

                              1

                          1.4

Sanó

              -6

                            -5

                        -6.4

 

In a limited sample, Kirilloff has been a better defensive first baseman than Sanó and shows a lot of promise with the bat. Kirilloff is the Twins first baseman of the future and the Twins should not spend $14 million on Sanó in 2023 if Kirilloff is a better option than he is.

Final Thoughts
2022 looks to be an extremely important year in Miguel Sanó’s career and barring a more consistent year at the plate, it could definitely be Sanó’s last year as a member of the Minnesota Twins.

What do you think the Twins should do with Miguel Sanó? What does Sanó need to show the Twins in order for them to exercise his 2023 option? How does Sanó compare to Kirilloff? Let me know what you think in the comments!

Thank you for reading, and Go Twins!


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Unless some team gives a crazy offer for Sano, which I find not likely, they will ride out the season and unless he does amazing they will let him walk.  When he is on, he can carry any offense, but that is so short lived with him and when he is off he cannot hit anything.  The worst part is he does not chase a ton, he actually takes a ton of called third strikes and he misses pitches in the zone.  

Our best hope is that DH goes across the league and some NL team feels they need him to DH and offers something for him. That is only way he gets traded for any value. 

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He looks like a future DH to me.  It just depends on how much you want to spend on a DH.  When he is on he is scary in the batters box and pitchers try to pitch around him or get him to chase.  When he is off he is an easy K.  If he OPS's in the high 800 to 900 area it is going to be hard to let a bat like that go.  If he has another year like last year the Twins won't have much choice but to let him walk.  No one is going to want to pay 14M for an inconsistent DH so trading him is going to be tough sledding IMO.

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Trade him, if the Twins can actually find a club willing to take him in trade. I'll wager there are few that desperate to acquire an inconsistent DH because he's a liability in the field and nobody will want him as a first baseman.  How far he can hit the ball or what sort of velocity he can put on a ball going out of the park is immaterial in my opinion. No matter how high or how fast a homerun gets out of the park they still only count as one run. But a strikeout with runners in scoring position can cost a team as much as 3 runs.

So why if we have a young player who can hit more consistently and play a better first base, why would we want to retain Sano? Illogical.

 

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The Twins will put him in the line-up at 1B & DH, trying to maximize match-ups, as $9.25MM is a reasonable amount to pay him. They will try to move him at the deadline, and, if they get a good offer, will trade him. If unable to trade him, they will look at his numbers and decide whether to exercise the $14MM option for 2023.

He has only had 1 season (2018) where he wasn't above league average in OPS+ and compares favorably to some good MLB players through age 28 according to Baseball Reference:

Similar Batters through 28
  1. Kyle Schwarber (966.1)
  2. Dave Kingman (942.8)
  3. Chris Davis (941.8)
  4. Greg Vaughn (938.3)
  5. Carlos Quentin (934.1)
  6. Nick Swisher (932.9)
  7. Randal Grichuk (932.0)
  8. Michael Conforto (930.3)
  9. Joc Pederson (926.1)
  10. Max Kepler (919.4)
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Word at the end of the season was sano was going to drop weight and get into physical shape ...

Maybe this will help , we will see ...

Also last year of guaranteed money  ... produce for another big payday or he'll just bounce around from team to team for awhile and be out of baseball  ...

My option  ....

If he does produce in 2022 and has value at trade deadline and teams tend to over spend  .... TRADE HIM

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I think the 4th option not listed here is my favorite option...hope he hits his usual hot streak as temps start to rise and if the team isn't in contention trade him to one of many teams who would love to have a hot hitting Sano for their playoff push.

If he comes in lighter and better and has a great season I could be open to keeping him on his option, but I don't think extending him would make much sense. I'd also be good with not exercising his option and just letting him walk and spending that 14 mil elsewhere. 

Sano is a good hitter. His numbers are basically always above average. His problem is that he's incredible streaky. I don't think 14 mil would be outrageous for him next year. If he produces 2 WAR he's earned that amount. I definitely don't trade him before the season, but everything is on the table once things get rolling.

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Can you imagine Sano playing half his games in Coors Field or Fenway?  He could hit 50 HR's.

Part of this evaluation is also contingent on how the rest of the lineup is going. If the Twins are producing runs, it is easier to carry Sano during his down times and enjoy his hot streaks.  If we are struggling, he is tougher to carry.

Let him play out his contract this year, hope he does beautifully, and then exercise the option or even extend.  If someone comes in with a strong offer, make a decision then.  I certainly would not be shopping Sano at this point.  Guys with his type of power do not grow on trees.

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All the options are in play. It’s probably a pretty fluid situation with lots of factors, including: universal DH, team pre-deadline competitiveness, other DH options (think JD, Rooker, and maybe some MK), prospect development (Sabato in particular), other position player trade developments (JD and MK) trade demand, payroll considerations, and, of course, Sano’s performance. 
 

Having said that, IMO I think it is highly unlikely any trade gets done in the off-season. In 2022, Sano is going to get his chance and likely starts out as our primary DH while playing some backup 1B. The goal is to hit 0.250, 35 dingers, 0.850+ OPS, and be a good team presence.  If he exceeds that, Miguel either has his option picked up and is part of the new window or he earns a sweet new contract most likely somewhere else.  If he underperforms, he will be on his way and it’s unclear what he is able to garner as an almost purely DH FA. 
 

The good news is that Miguel has a lot to play for this year!  There is so much in his hands and all indications are that he is going to get his chance. I’m cheering hard for him. 

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I think he holds the bat too tightly; squeezes the bat handle (way) too hard.

Someone needs to get into his head and say: "You are a .300 hitter (vice 60 HR guy)!"

To that end, could someone please play "pepper" with Miguel every day for at least an hour....

From the simple dude.....

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Depends how he and we are doing at the half. Perhaps trade him then, or pick up the option. I think he would make a good DH, if he plays at his best. I think he plays at his best when the rest of the offense around him is playing well. Then he compliments. But if he has to carry, he can go into a slump.

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IMO, they are going to send him out to first base almost everyday until somebody forces there hand to replace him. Hopefully he does so well that nobody can do that, or AK, Graver, Miranda force their hand by hitting lights out.

Trading him before the season with no back up plan is reckless and a disservice to the team and fans. And the back up plan can't be we think AK will stay healthy and hit.

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Sano's last year with the Twins is this one. He'll be traded before the start of the season, at the deadline if he has value or he'll be allowed to become a free agent at the end of the year. During his time on the active roster, he'll serve as a DH.

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3 hours ago, PatG said:

I think he holds the bat too tightly; squeezes the bat handle (way) too hard.

Someone needs to get into his head and say: "You are a .300 hitter (vice 60 HR guy)!"

To that end, could someone please play "pepper" with Miguel every day for at least an hour....

From the simple dude.....

I wouldn't trade him before the deadline because #1 he wouldn't be worth anything #2 he seemed to have an easier swing towards the end of the season which I'd like to see if it carries over to this season and get into even better shape , I'd even consider to extend him because he's so strong, durable and athletic.

I agree w/ Pat that he's too tense and over-swings if he can overcome that he'd be great.

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4 hours ago, Nashvilletwin said:

I don’t know how that cow thing got in there. Apologies. 

Good thing you explained that. I've been staring at it for 15 minutes, pondering its secret meaning. Was thinking it meant you love steak, grilled, on the backyard grill, temperatures in the 80's, cold beer in hand, Twins on the radio, one up in the tenth, wondering who they were going to send in to ice the game.

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I'd trade him or waive him. Sano doesn't fit the Twins system, which requires much more balanced, versatile players at every position. Sano needs a fresh start, anyway.

The organization now has plenty of prospects that are athletic and versatile. Bring them all up in '22, along with all the best pitching prospects. Quit with this ridiculous trickle of guys. Bring up Miranda, Martin, Lewis, Larnach, etc. The best guys at AA and higher. Sink or swim, boys. Let's see if you're any good at this "baseball" thing you've been playing all your lives. 

Then play like the Rays. Pitchers throw strikes, or find somewhere else to play. Position players must be able to handle at least one other position with MLB average fielding stats. This includes SS and C. Hell, any catcher should be able to play 1st base, right? Then I wanna wanna see aggressive offense. Bunting, run and hit, base stealing, and at least one trick play per game. Oh, and during warmups, players should sometimes throw the ball behind their back. Skill guys can even try catching one like that. Show off while you're young!

Ok, lemme squeeze the last helium out of this balloon. Every Twins pitcher must develop some kind of "trick" pitch they can throw for a strike. Eephus, behind the back, knuckler, hesitation...something to break up the monotony. 

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I think they keep him in 2022 and they'll make a decision on whether to pick up the $14M option after the season. He'll probably play a fair amount at 1B but get more ABs at DH depending on the health and progression of some of the other young players. (If Larnach is hitting his way into the lineup, I could see them moving Kirilloff to 1B and Sano to DH) But unless someone like Kepler, Donaldson, or Arraez is dealt, then the Twins will need Sano in the field at least part of the time.

He's an interesting player because when he's squaring up on fastballs he's an incredibly dangerous hitter. When he's struggling to catch up to fastballs, then he's also chasing more off-speed pitches out of the zone (usually with two strikes). He's got great patience and good understanding of the strike zone, but needs to find that good balance between aggressiveness and patience so he's swinging at his pitches (this was part of his key to success in the second half). The issue the Twins should be thinking about the most with Sano is how to shorten up the time he spends in a slump. He gets into these runs where his timing is just off and he can catch up to fastballs up in the zone, can't square up on off-speed pitches and is just a mess for long periods. When he gets that timing back, he starts mashing again. If they can find some tricks to get that timing back on track faster...he'll have a great year.

His biggest problem on D is decision-making: he's too aggressive in going after balls and pulls himself out of position chasing things he realistically can't get to, and needs to just simplify it a little more. He's got the hands to do it and he's plenty athletic (and makes a nice big target out there to throw to). I think there's opportunity to improve, but the expectations have to be realistic. He's not going to be Mauer (who should have one at least one Gold Glove over there) or Mienkiewicz (who was elite) but he can be good enough, especially considering his bat.

The most likely scenario is he has another good, but not great season, that probably falls somewhere between 2021's overall effort and his 2019 campaign. Which would be worth what we'll pay him, but probably not worth picking up the $14M option. And then he'll probably leave, because when a team doesn't pick up an option or offer arbitration pride will get in the way even if the team wants to bring them back and they'll take less to "go somewhere they're wanted" rather than sign for less than they made from their old team. Such is the business of baseball.

(I don't think there's anyone on the club that things he's got an attitude problem or anything like that. That's the BS that comes from fans who hate the Ks and can only remember the slumps...or Reusse.)

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If the Twins add nothing more to the team's offense, and if Kirilloff looks good at first, Sano is the DH. Would be nice to get at bats at DH for Donaldson and Garver, and in retrospect might be nice then to play Sanoa t first and maybe even third base. Sadly, with Donaldson and maybe Arraez still on the team, I see Miranda starting the season in St. Paul.

 

Sano has to mash. He has to show he is a bat and a DH that can play the field in a pinch. He would then be valuable for a National League team when trading deadline rolls around.

 

But if he controls his stroke and mashes for the Twins, is he an Ortiz keeper with annual $15-20 million contracts until he no lonegr wants to play.

 

As a fan, I need to see him overcome the situation where he comes up with men on base and one or two outs, and chases obvious low and outside pitches. He has to learn to eliminate that golf swing of his and make the pitches come more into his zone. Which means he has to make a hard push to stay consistently and constantly in the game. Will he be able to do this as a bench riding DH? 

 

Or do we jettison him and let him be another team's problem. Fist three months of 2022. If he comes around, and shows discipline that can carry over towards the future...keep him. if he doesn't, take what you can get before you just let him walk for nothing.

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3 hours ago, Doctor Gast said:

I wouldn't trade him before the deadline because #1 he wouldn't be worth anything #2 he seemed to have an easier swing towards the end of the season which I'd like to see if it carries over to this season and get into even better shape , I'd even consider to extend him because he's so strong, durable and athletic.

I agree w/ Pat that he's too tense and over-swings if he can overcome that he'd be great.

So you think he'll have no trade value, but he'll totally be worth extending?

Aside from that, I'm not sure where you get durable and athletic? Sano barely qualified for the batting title last year for the very first time in his entire career, but still missed nearly 30 games during the season. It was the first time in his career he's played more than 116 games.  In regard to athleticism, that left him some years ago. He's now a well below average speed runner and his quickness and range departed several years ago. Even his glove has turned to stone as he put together an unimaginably poor defensive effort in 2021. 

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3 hours ago, jimbo92107 said:

I'd trade him or waive him. Sano doesn't fit the Twins system, which requires much more balanced, versatile players at every position. Sano needs a fresh start, anyway.

The organization now has plenty of prospects that are athletic and versatile. Bring them all up in '22, along with all the best pitching prospects. Quit with this ridiculous trickle of guys. Bring up Miranda, Martin, Lewis, Larnach, etc. The best guys at AA and higher. Sink or swim, boys. Let's see if you're any good at this "baseball" thing you've been playing all your lives. 

Then play like the Rays. Pitchers throw strikes, or find somewhere else to play. Position players must be able to handle at least one other position with MLB average fielding stats. This includes SS and C. Hell, any catcher should be able to play 1st base, right? Then I wanna wanna see aggressive offense. Bunting, run and hit, base stealing, and at least one trick play per game. Oh, and during warmups, players should sometimes throw the ball behind their back. Skill guys can even try catching one like that. Show off while you're young!

Ok, lemme squeeze the last helium out of this balloon. Every Twins pitcher must develop some kind of "trick" pitch they can throw for a strike. Eephus, behind the back, knuckler, hesitation...something to break up the monotony. 

I was all in on this idea until the trick pitch. Then I realized you were   just kidding.  You had me reeled in at "Bring them all up in '22."

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WHen it comes to Kirilloff replacing Sano at 1B, the issue isnt so much that Kirilloff is so much better of a 1B than Sano, it is more that Kirilloff is so much WORSE of an OF. Twins WILL find  a place for his bat. if Kirilloff could play a lick in the OF there would be ZERO discussion about Sano's defensive liabilities at 1B.

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I'd stick with him for 2022 and let him walk afterwards. Sano strikes me as a great talent that puts in the required work and then goes home. I say this based on the inconsistency in hitting and the lack of fielding. Perhaps I am being unfair, but I don't understand how someone who played SS in the minors and 3B and RF (terribly, but still, someone thought it could work) cannot play an adequate 1B. My hope is 2022 gives him the contract year motivation and we get to go along for a wild ride. 

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