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Can Either Miguel Sano or Kennys Vargas Get Back to the Bigs?


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Arguably the most disappointing decision of Terry Ryan’s career as a general manager was non-tendering David Ortiz. When you release a player that becomes a Hall of Fame talent, it’s hard to overcome. Since then, two players were always discussed in the same breath as Ortiz. Because of their size and strength, Miguel Sano and Kennys Vargas were often compared to Ortiz. 

 

Image courtesy of Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously neither Kennys Vargas or Miguel Sano were ever going to become the next David Ortiz, but both were lazily compared at every juncture. As big-time sluggers that failed to realize much of their potential for Minnesota, it was low hanging fruit to bring up that suggestion. Their careers are not at all the same, and Sano’s tenure with the Twins only ended last season. Entering 2023 though, both find themselves at a crossroads.

On Thursday, the Cincinnati Reds signed Vargas to a minor-league deal. He received an invitation to big-league Spring Training, and it’s the first step on his path toward a return to the big leagues. The former Minnesota prospect hasn’t played in the majors since 2017, and after a stop overseas, he has spent time in the Dominican, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.

Playing 85 games last year in Mexico, Vargas put up gaudy numbers. His .324/.462/.566 slash line was punctuated with 17 home runs and 17 doubles. He played another 50 games during both the Venezuelan and Mexican winter leagues, in which he recorded 10 homers and a pair of triples.

Vargas spent all of 2018 at Triple-A Rochester for Minnesota. He posted just a .752 OPS, and while the power numbers played he whiffed plenty. After being part of the 2014 Futures Game at Target Field alongside teammate Jose Berrios, Vargas never really produced more than an average big leaguer. His career 102 OPS+ was compiled across 236 games. That Futures Game also included Joey Gallo, Jorge Lopez, Michael A. Taylor, and Alex Meyer.

It remains improbable that a 32-year-old Vargas is now the best version of himself, but the Reds should hardly have an impossible roster to crack.

On the flip side, you have Sano, who was in the big leagues as recently as 2022. Unfortunately, he was so terrible that in just 29 games, Sano generated -0.9 fWAR. He tore his meniscus and tried to return later in the year, but the knee was not in playing shape and ultimately he was shut down.

A source indicated that Sano may potentially need more time yet to recover from his injury and that a mid-season signing could be likely. He has been training down in Tampa, Florida this winter, and a workout is now on the horizon. Darren Wolfson reports that Sano will host scouts next week.

It is somewhat shocking that Sano couldn’t find a deal for 2023 before the likes of Vargas, but that is solely a reflection of where his knee is physically. Sano may be looking for a guaranteed Major League deal as well, but even with a universal designated hitter, his health and production of late have not been good at all.

Sano has shown an ability to hit at the Major League level, and he did own a 112 OPS+ in 2021. He was an All-Star back in 2017 and posted a 139 OPS+ along with 34 homers for the Bomba Squad in 2019. Despite racking up strikeouts in droves, his bugaboo has largely been facing velocity. Maybe a team believes in his plate discipline enough to give him a shot, but they’ll need to see a good showing next week.

At the end of the day, neither slugger is or was ever going to come close to Ortiz. It is shocking to see Sano the one still out in the cold heading into 2023, but he also has a reputation that may precede him.


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Sano is supposedly doing his workout showcase today down in Tampa. I'm sure we'll see something about how it went in the next day or two. If I was going to make a bet on either Sano or Vargas making it to a big league club, I'd pick Sano. I just hope it isn't with us. 

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As the former graphic designer and scoreboard operator at Hammond Stadium for a decade, Kennys Vargas was my favorite player. He had a huge smile and an even bigger heart. He boomed out "Hey, Papi" to everyone he met. I'm still curious why the Twins moved on from him. He was a solid player.

Mitch & Kennys.jpg

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Intersting comparison

Miguel Sano - Career - 2859 PA's
BA .234 OPS .808 OPS+ 116 oWAR 12.3 WAR 7.6

Joey Gallo - Career - 2811 PA's
BA .199 OPS .794 OPS+ 109 oWAR 10.8 WAR 14.7

Yes, Gallo can play in the OF & is a good defensive player, but he is redundant on this team - we have plenty of good
defensive OF's & plenty of LH bats. Sano is a RH bat who'd fit in at 1B or DH.

Sano would be less expensive to.

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Nice to see vargas  getting an invite to spring training on a minor league contract  ...

Vargas could hit it a long way when he connected  ....

Sano has to earn a major league contract back , if he wants to stay in the game he better settle for a minor league contract with an invite  because that is all he is worth at this moment  ( sorry to say ) ... 

I hope the best for both of them  ...

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36 minutes ago, MGX said:

Intersting comparison

Miguel Sano - Career - 2859 PA's
BA .234 OPS .808 OPS+ 116 oWAR 12.3 WAR 7.6

Joey Gallo - Career - 2811 PA's
BA .199 OPS .794 OPS+ 109 oWAR 10.8 WAR 14.7

Yes, Gallo can play in the OF & is a good defensive player, but he is redundant on this team - we have plenty of good
defensive OF's & plenty of LH bats. Sano is a RH bat who'd fit in at 1B or DH.

Sano would be less expensive to.

Isnt Gallo healthy whereas Sano not so much?

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1 hour ago, MGX said:

Intersting comparison

Miguel Sano - Career - 2859 PA's
BA .234 OPS .808 OPS+ 116 oWAR 12.3 WAR 7.6

Joey Gallo - Career - 2811 PA's
BA .199 OPS .794 OPS+ 109 oWAR 10.8 WAR 14.7

Yes, Gallo can play in the OF & is a good defensive player, but he is redundant on this team - we have plenty of good
defensive OF's & plenty of LH bats. Sano is a RH bat who'd fit in at 1B or DH.

Sano would be less expensive to.

I mean, when you put it like that, I would much rather have just lit the money on fire.  That, or have a few home games this year with a free round of beer for the first 30k in attendance.  Maybe save those for after the all-start game in case things start to tank badly.

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Big guys have so many moving parts to align. I thought both Vargas and Sano were good athletes but they faced struggles with their weaknesses. Baseball is a hard game to play. It would be terrific to see both Sano and Vargas resurrect their careers and find success at the major league level, and they each could too. The odds are stacked against them though.

It would be delightful to see each suddenly become stars again.

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I posted in the Sano threads at the end of the 2022 season he’s going to have a tough time getting an MLB contract. It’s been a long winter for him and I anticipate that continuing. When you can’t catch up to fastballs in the zone, your time is up in MLB. 

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25 minutes ago, Vanimal46 said:

When you can’t catch up to fastballs in the zone, your time is up in MLB. 

That is so true.

Maybe Miguel Sano was affected by injuries or whatever. Maybe he can bounce back but the winds are stiff for him.

Pitchers face the same problem. They lose their fastball and re-create themselves as junk ballers to remain competitive but even the soft tossers need to slip the fastball by a batter or keep it off the barrel. Zack Greinke games are must viewing for anyone who ever pitched for years at a competitive level. He is a master.

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It might sound weird to say, but I'm more disappointed, as a Twins fan, that Vargas didn't approach his ceiling than Sano. Despite being a 1B/DH, I actually thought he might turn out to be the better player/producer. 

Not to be mean or or judgmental, but I just feel Sano loves to play baseball, and loves being a baseball player, but is happy just being that. His actual numbers and production are actually pretty good. He wasn't any kind of disaster, despite never reaching the ceiling hoped for. But it just feels like he's never had the drive to be better. He just wanted to play, have fun, make $, and see what happens, and maybe just believe he was good enough "as is". Maybe I'm wrong, and I was a supporter of him and his OPS numbers. But it's how I see him now.

Without knowing exactly how they want to stack their lineup, or exactly is on hand, I've said for a while now Miami should sign him, most likely on a make good milb deal. With so much pitching and questions about offense, why wouldn't they take a flier on a healthy Sano as a 6th-7th hitter at 1B/DH who will frustrate you and carry you at times.

Other than a good match Iike that, I'm not certain he isn't done other than a foreign market.

Go Vargas! He's put in the work to keep his dream alive! I doubt the outcome, but good for the Reds to take a milb shot on him.

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39 minutes ago, DocBauer said:

It might sound weird to say, but I'm more disappointed, as a Twins fan, that Vargas didn't approach his ceiling than Sano. Despite being a 1B/DH, I actually thought he might turn out to be the better player/producer. 

Not to be mean or or judgmental, but I just feel Sano loves to play baseball, and loves being a baseball player, but is happy just being that. His actual numbers and production are actually pretty good. He wasn't any kind of disaster, despite never reaching the ceiling hoped for. But it just feels like he's never had the drive to be better. He just wanted to play, have fun, make $, and see what happens, and maybe just believe he was good enough "as is". Maybe I'm wrong, and I was a supporter of him and his OPS numbers. But it's how I see him now.

Without knowing exactly how they want to stack their lineup, or exactly is on hand, I've said for a while now Miami should sign him, most likely on a make good milb deal. With so much pitching and questions about offense, why wouldn't they take a flier on a healthy Sano as a 6th-7th hitter at 1B/DH who will frustrate you and carry you at times.

Other than a good match Iike that, I'm not certain he isn't done other than a foreign market.

Go Vargas! He's put in the work to keep his dream alive! I doubt the outcome, but good for the Reds to take a milb shot on him.

Right team to give Vargas a chance what with their postage stamp sized park.

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4 hours ago, MGX said:

Intersting comparison

Miguel Sano - Career - 2859 PA's
BA .234 OPS .808 OPS+ 116 oWAR 12.3 WAR 7.6

Joey Gallo - Career - 2811 PA's
BA .199 OPS .794 OPS+ 109 oWAR 10.8 WAR 14.7

Yes, Gallo can play in the OF & is a good defensive player, but he is redundant on this team - we have plenty of good
defensive OF's & plenty of LH bats. Sano is a RH bat who'd fit in at 1B or DH.

Sano would be less expensive to.

Been thinking / saying the same since we signed Gallo.  We scored less  than 700 runs without Sano last year.  No reason to doubt we could do the same again.

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Sano should get signed to a minor league deal and I wouldn't even mind if it was with the Twins. He's looking for the best deal that he can find. But his main issue is consistency which is required to remain a pro. If Sano can somehow be more consistent with his bat then he can make it back to the bigs.

The Twins know more about his medicals than any other team. If the Twins have any faith in him at all they'll make him an offer. But IIRC after paying him a $3 mil buyout I doubt that they would offer enough to sign him unless all of the other offers are similar.

Many Twins fans would probably love to see him make a comeback and be a hero but he's got a lot to prove. He could end up being more productive than Gallo & Jeffers, or he can continue to chase pitches as if he needs eye glasses. That's anyone's guess but I'd want to see what he can do in AAA before moving back up. His buyout was an issue of financial necessity for the Twins, and maybe Sano has some hard feelings But if he still has a house in Minny then maybe there's a slight chance for a reunion of mutual convenience.

 

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No Twin besides Pagan fell into Twins fan purgatory quicker or more often than Miguel Sano.  I'm not sure if it was the lofty expectations of him being compared to Miggy in his early years or down to the straight disgust of management putting him in the OF for 30 games 7 years ago, but fans love to rag on Sano.

Just 2 years ago he hit 30 HR, which was more than anyone hit in 2022 and his .778 OPS would have only trailed Buck, Correa and Arraez.  He had a BAD 2022, it's true, but he was injured for most of the year and only got 70 PA.  

He does K too much, but he deserves a shot somewhere and I hope he gets it.  It would obviously be great for Kennys as well, he was also a favorite.

 

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I do not remember if Vargas would come up hot the get as cold as Frostbite Falls on a winter’s day. The stat line looks good. The lack of signing by other teams raises questions. Maybe he passed the aged to be considered prospect status. 

Sano has to prove he is healthy to be signed by anyone. He might only get a minimal contract as baseball is trying to move from the 3 outcome baseball. Sano exemplifies the 3 outcomes. He might not be appreciative of low offers 

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Kennys Vargas was never going to get a chance with the Twins. 

In 2016... He was called up on July 4. Over 60 July AB's. His OPS was 1.129. 

He was benched and then sent down when players who would be leaving in free agency at the end of the year returned from the injured list.

The Twins finished 2016 with 59-103 record. 

Bench a guy when he is hot is a really good way to make earning a job impossible. 

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I am speculating that the loss of Cruz, (in a good trade) was a personal loss to Sano. A player should be able to rise above MLB roster changes, but, but should does not always translate to will. Sano's flaws such as a battle with weight, training practices, and failing to meet high expectations have certainly have created a perception of complete failure. I would not be upset if the Twins were to offer him an Mibl contract. We have no risk.

 

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Part of Vargas' problem with the Twins was he could only really play 1B or DH (and he wasn't exactly elite defensively at 1B). Mauer was already in place at 1B, and Sano was starting to compete for some of those DH ABs as well. And to be a primary DH you need to hit. Vargas never showed he could do it consistently enough at a high level. Good potential in his first stint in 2014, poor in 2015. Good production in 2016...and then he fell off again in 2017. Maybe he would have done better if he'd been given more consistent opportunities...but he also would have gotten more consistent opportunities if he'd produced better. It's a little surprising he didn't get a chance in 2018, but at the same time...he didn't exactly light the world on fire at AAA and demand the opportunity on a team that needed the help. I'm not that surprised he got a minor league deal, but it's hard to say how much he's got to offer at this point. (Mexican league stats aren't great indicators?)

I expected Sano would get signed this offseason, but it sounds like there are still questions about his knee. If he's not healthy, there's not really much reason for a team to give him a major-league deal right now and I'm guessing he's not interested in a minor league one. If he's healthy, he's worth taking a flyer on, even if the odds are good he'll break down again at some point. With the universal DH, there's probably at least a few teams that could use his power, but his lack of consistent splits might actually be hurting him right now. I'm guessing teams looking at him are trying to add RH power to punish LHP in more of a limited role, and that's not really Sano. When he's going good, he hits everybody and hits them into orbit, and when he's going poorly he can't hit water if he fell out of a $*&@% boat. If the knee isn't sound, then he's probably not going to hit anyone?

Good luck to them both. Vargas always seemed like a good dude, and I never bore the hate for Sano that others did.

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2 hours ago, Riverbrian said:

Kennys Vargas was never going to get a chance with the Twins. 

In 2016... He was called up on July 4. Over 60 July AB's. His OPS was 1.129. 

He was benched and then sent down when players who would be leaving in free agency at the end of the year returned from the injured list.

The Twins finished 2016 with 59-103 record. 

Bench a guy when he is hot is a really good way to make earning a job impossible. 

Nominee for all time dumbest FO moves.

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16 hours ago, MGX said:

Intersting comparison

Miguel Sano - Career - 2859 PA's
BA .234 OPS .808 OPS+ 116 oWAR 12.3 WAR 7.6

Joey Gallo - Career - 2811 PA's
BA .199 OPS .794 OPS+ 109 oWAR 10.8 WAR 14.7

Yes, Gallo can play in the OF & is a good defensive player, but he is redundant on this team - we have plenty of good
defensive OF's & plenty of LH bats. Sano is a RH bat who'd fit in at 1B or DH.

Sano would be less expensive to.

Great post.  For a person who dislikes Gallo this is more fuel for my frustration. I don't want either, but I hope Sano gets another shot with a team like the Reds or Marlins or Pittsburgh or Oakland.  Lots of lousy teams that he could fit in with.

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2 hours ago, Parfigliano said:

Nominee for all time dumbest FO moves.

In hindsight maybe not. 

Vargas got some opportunity the following year in 2017. 264 PA's with a .758 OPS so he didn't light the world on fire. Still that OPS is much better than what Kepler has been producing lately and there is no doubt that Kepler got a lot more rope. 

2016 though... Yeah... I didn't like it one bit. It's was not what a team out of contention should be doing. It was the opposite. The team is tumbling toward the #1 draft pick. You have a young player hitting the crap out of the ball to a 1000 plus OPS (70 AB's) a player who is basically the only player on the team hitting the ball in July and you send him down. So the team... out of contention, tumbling toward the #1 pick could make sure that a player who is a pending free agent and gone next year can get the AB's.  

If you are out of contention you play your youth, you trade your expiring contacts and if you can't trade them... you play the youth first. 

If Vargas is allowed to build on that hot streak... perceptions change... maybe 2017 goes better with some faith and additional AB's to add to his experience. Maybe he hits a wall and crashed but... we will never know. You take away a hot streak... you take away everything. 

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