The Twins finished 27th overall in production from their first basemen according to FanGraphs' WAR (-0.2) during the 2021 season, with only Cleveland (-0.7), Pittsburgh (-0.9), and Kansas City (-1.0) winding up below them. (These were the only four teams to accumulate negative fWAR.) Despite ranking sixth in home runs (45), Twins' first basemen were 24th in wRC+ (97) and 29th in FanGraphs' defensive runs above average stat (-25.7).
In short, Twins' first basemen, as a group, were terrible this past summer.
Of course, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone who regularly tuned into the games. Miguel Sanó struggled mightily for most of the season before a hot August, and September resulted in quasi-respectable cumulative stats (30 home runs, 110 wRC+, .778 OPS). Alex Kirilloff shone brightly for 59 games before a wrist injury hampered his power, and the corresponding surgery in July sidelined him for the remainder of the season. As a result, Willians Astudillo appeared far more at first base than the Twins originally planned or his skills warranted.
Arguably the best solution for the Twins' first base woes is also the easiest and most likely: Move Kirilloff to the bag and Sanó to designated hitter full-time. Kirilloff produced a 1.4 UZR in 213 ⅔ innings at first base last season, representing a slightly above average total. On the other hand, Sanó has accumulated -10.0 UZR at first base throughout his career and has never produced a positive value in a season in which he has played more than 50 innings at the position.
Kirilloff's sample is too small to draw any firm conclusions — FanGraphs recommends at least three seasons of data before seeking to do so — but his early results are encouraging. Moving him to first base full-time would likely boost the team's fWAR and UZR numbers while maintaining a similar level of power at his peak. Sanó's presence at DH would also help fill the void left by Nelson Cruz's trade to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Secondarily, the Twins could make Kirilloff the primary first baseman, move on from Sano, seek backups in either the free agent, waiver, or trade market, or rely on their prospects to fill in part-time. The first base free-agent class is heavy at the top with names such as Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo and lacks overall depth, making an acquisition of that nature unlikely. Likewise, trades for primary backups are rare unless said backup provides value at other positions.
As such, perhaps the most logical solution in this scenario would be to have Jose Miranda serve as a utilityman, filling in at third, second, and first base, assuming Josh Donaldson remains on the roster. Miranda played 225 innings at first base across Double- and Triple-A last summer, committing two errors. Many evaluators — present company included — believe he is best defensively at third due to several factors: arm strength, feel for the glove, and range. Still, he could function well at first base in spot situations.
Regardless of the path they ultimately take, the Twins need more from their first basemen if they wish to be competitive during the 2022 season. Moving a healthy Kirilloff into the role is most logical and would likely provide a boost both offensively and defensively. From there, it's on the shoulders of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine to make the proper decisions.