MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Miguel Sanó’s tenure with Minnesota has flashed all the potential the Twins envisioned when they started scouting him as a 13-year-old in the Dominican Republic.
Sanó’s progress, highlighted by those prodigious home runs, have also been offset by hefty strikeout totals, injuries that have kept him from playing more than 116 games in any of his five major league seasons, and the weight accompanying his big frame that has taken constant work to keep under control.
With Sanó and the Twins facing the prospect of arbitration, the two sides agreed to a $30 million, three-year contract last week that was finalized on Tuesday. The move demonstrated the team’s belief in his measured progress while also reminding there is more room from growth for the 26-year-old third baseman.
“My agent called me and told me, ‘You’ve got a deal on the table. Do you want it?,’” Sanó said at Target Field on Tuesday. “I said, ‘Yeah, let’s go take it.’ Because I don’t think about the money. I think about play with the Twins. I take my future, my family. That’s the biggest point for me right now.”
Sanó, who made $2.65 million last season in his first year of arbitration eligibility, bounced back from a rough 2018 with a career-high 34 homers in just 105 games last year. All of his home runs came after May 1, which ranked as the sixth most in the American League from that date on. He also had a career-best .923 OPS.
“I showed what I can do,” Sanó said through the team's interpreter. “Last year was a statement. I didn’t play the entire season, and I put up good numbers. I know they know what I can bring to the table. I’m really looking forward to keep doing that.”
The belated start was due to another injury, a heel laceration sustained while celebrating a winter league championship in the Dominican Republic.
The injury was particularly frustrating because Sanó altered his workout habits last offseason and lost 25 pounds. The Twins list currently list him at 6-foot-4 and 272 pounds.
Sanó also wanted to prove himself after a 2018 season in which he played just 71 major league games, had career lows with a .199 batting average and 13 home runs and spent part of the season in the minors because of his struggles.
He said he’s using the same training routine this offseason but doesn’t plan to play winter ball.
“I think with the money that I’m getting now, I’m going to go ahead and build a good nucleus of people around me, hire people that can help me like a masseuse and people that can help me with training, besides having what I have here with the organization,” Sanó said. “I think it’s important for me now that to think about what I did last year, if I play an entire season, I can probably double those numbers.”
The contract, which includes a $14 million club option for 2023, covers what would have been his first two season of free agency eligibility.
Minnesota initially signed Sanó out of the Dominican Republic in 2009.
“When he made contact at that age, how easy the ball jumped,” said Fred Guerrero, Minnesota’s director of Latin America scouting and U.S. integration. “For 14, 15-year-old kids, hitting a ball 400 feet, you normally don’t see that and he was hitting a wood bat. He wasn’t even (using) aluminum. He did that pretty easily. He caught peoples’ attention, even people that have no idea what a baseball player looks like.”
Save for an ill-fated move to right field in his second season, Sanó has been a regular at third base with occasional games at the other corner or in the designated hitter spot currently filled by Nelson Cruz. Sanó said he wasn't worried about where he'd play and that he'd been working out this winter at both third base and first base, which is where he's now headed with the $92 million addition of free agent Josh Donaldson. That deal was also struck on Tuesday, after Sanó signed his and spoke with reporters.
If his development continues and the setbacks become infrequent, his latest contract will become a real value to the Twins.
“It’s not a lot,” Sanó joked about the $30 million total. “I can get more than that.”