Derek Falvey and Thad Levine signed Miguel Sano to a three-year extension worth $30 million right before the 2020 season. Sano was coming off a year as a key contributor to the Bomba Squad. He blasted a career-best 34 homers while playing 105 games. His .923 OPS was easily a career-high, and at 26 years old, he looked the part of a premier power hitter.
From that point forward, Sano was basically league-average offensively. In 208 games with the Twins from 2020 on, he slashed .207/.295/.441 with 44 homers. Health was an issue, and there were plenty of periods where it looked unnecessary to have him on a big-league roster at all. The 20 games he played in 2022 accounted for a team-worst -0.9 fWAR, and only 20 players made appearances in the majors last season while being worse.
Now a free agent for the first time in his career, a once highly-regarded prospect will see an expected amount of scrutiny on the open market. Not only does Sano need to prove he can still be an asset at the major-league level, but he’ll need to also show he’s healthy and worthy of a presence in a major-league clubhouse.
The adoption of the designated hitter in the National League is a welcomed reality, and that gives Sano another 15 teams that realistically could use his services. He’s still relatively young, even if it shouldn’t be expected that he ages well. Sano can handle first base, although he’s a bit below average there. I don’t think any team will get Terry Ryan crazy and put him in the outfield, so his roster flexibility is largely limited. (That said, maybe at this stage in his career, Sano might actually try to become a decent outfielder...)
Having been paid through his buyout and having made a decent amount on the extension, it would stand to reason that Sano could probably be had for peanuts. If he’s going to get a guaranteed major-league deal, which seems like somewhat of a longshot, a couple of million bucks should do the trick. He could also very likely be headed toward a minor-league deal with an invite to Spring Training.
A team with nothing to lose and low expectations could be a good fit for Sano. Maybe Derek Shelton would welcome him to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Miami Marlins could be a team to make use of him as a designated hitter, and he’d certainly feel at home in Florida. The Royals and Tigers have taken fliers on worse, but I’d bet they’ve seen enough over the years. Maybe Oakland tried to get something out of him, or the Rockies could be determined that the ball would fly at Coors Field. Seeing him go anywhere with real aspirations seems difficult.
This is and never was going to be another David Ortiz scenario, no matter how many times it has been mentioned. Sano is not young, and there isn’t some key to unlocking a superstar. He’s a fine slugger that’s a known commodity, and the upside isn’t immense. It will be weird seeing him in another uniform for 2023, but here’s to hoping he makes the most of it.