Does Miguel Sano still have a place in the formation of the Twins?
Shortly after José Miranda’s single on Saturday afternoon, I received a call from a friend. We were both excited about the Minnesota Twins and discussed what they could do at the trade deadline. But after a few minutes, I remembered someone who might have gotten lost in the shuffle.
“Where is Miguel Sanó located?” I asked.
“Sano? My friend scoffed. “I forgot he was even on the team!”
It would be laughable to think that we would be having this discussion five years ago. Sanó was a future cornerstone for the Twins, but the narrative has changed. He is coming back from a torn meniscus and the Twins seem to be fine without him. Sanó’s injury could spell the end of his time in Minnesota, but there could be a way to make things right. Maybe he could win a role in stride.
Sanó’s best options are at first base and designated hitter if he returns to the lineup. He was the Twins’ opening day first baseman. Given his limited versatility on the court, this is the best way to get his bat into the lineup.
But the Twins have a good problem with Luis Arraez. The utility man dug in at first base and currently leads the American League in batting average and on-base percentage. He’s going to be an All-Star. Pulling it out for Sanó, who was hitting .093 at the time of his injury, would put them in the crosshairs of every Twins fan in the state.
Even if Arraez gets injured, the Twins have better replacements on the roster. Alex Kirilloff is hitting .264 with a .727 OPS since being recalled on June 17. Miranda is hitting .319 with an .879 OPS in his last 31 games. Both players give the Twins better versatility than Sanó and create a roadblock for playing time.
That leaves Sanó with the designated hitter spot, but even that has roadblocks. One of the benefits of the Nelson Cruz trade last year was that it opened up a spot to give players a day off the field and keep their bats in the lineup.
No player benefited more than Buxton, who managed to deal with his recalcitrant knee by taking shots at DH. Using any of the above-mentioned players in this spot gives the Twins more of an advantage over Sanó and could leave him relegated to the bench.
Even then, who would they send to Triple-A? Gilberto Celestino has been a solid deep fielder. Nick Gordon can play anywhere on the court and has averaged .290 since June 1. The Twins won’t be sending an extra pitcher, so there may not be room to bring him in.
Sanó is in the final year of his contract, so the Twins could consider swapping him. However, this is where things could get dangerous.
Throughout his career, Sanó has been a model of inconsistency. One month he could post a batting average that could run machines. The following? It looks like the second coming of David Ortiz. These crazy streaks are driving Twins fans crazy, but it might remind them of someone else.
This time last year, Eddie Rosario was a mess. He was hitting .255/.297/.390 with seven home runs in 77 games with the Cleveland Guardians, then suffered an abdominal strain on July 5. With the team light years away from contention, Cleveland traded him to the Atlanta Braves.
Once he got off the disabled list, Rosario went into one of his hot nuclear streaks. He hit .271/.330/.573 with seven home runs in 32 games to help Atlanta win the NL East and .560/.670/1.040 with three home runs to capture the NLCS MVP and lead the Braves to the World Series. .
You might think that’s inconceivable given what we’ve seen of Sanó, but he’s had hot streaks like this before. Imagine if the Twins trade Sanó for a setup guy, only to see him land with the New York Yankees and start throwing balls in their little league park. Or what if he goes to a National League team and becomes this year’s version of Rosario? It’s something Sanó supporters dreamed of, but never materialized.
There is also the possibility of players getting injured. If Buxton’s knee isn’t feeling great heading into a postseason game, sliding Sanó’s bat into the lineup isn’t the worst thing in the world. He can pull off four hits. He can hit three homers. We do not know. You better have it on the Minnesota side to find out.
It’s not the same landscape as five years ago, when we were waiting for Sanó to transform into Miguel Cabrera. It’s a scenario where he could help a team that’s been shut out 11 times in MLB this season, even if he hits .200.
We’ve been down this road before. But with the Twins’ current situation, getting Sanó back might not be a bad thing.