DETROIT -- Twins fans, the end of an era may well be upon us.
Or maybe not? Either way, Miguel Sanó appears to have done enough lately to make the looming decision on his future as difficult as possible for Minnesota. The club has until Tuesday to announce his fate, and because word was expected to come down on Sunday prior to the Twins’ 9-1 win over the Tigers at Comerica Park, the extra 48 hours only adds an air of mystery to the mix.
Has Sanó shown enough pop during a 12-game rehab stint to give the Twins reason to shuffle their roster to accommodate him, or has his prolonged absence shown the club it can succeed without him?
While we wait for the decision, let’s spin through scenarios:
Sanó is good to go
The Twins know what a difference-maker Sanó is when he’s on his game, and so they’ve dragged their feet to afford him every opportunity to get back on track. Manager Rocco Baldelli said Saturday that the club has “used every possible at-bat that we can get him.”
“He's the kind of guy that you want on your team; I would always say that, from the first day I met him until now,” Baldelli added. “He's been a guy in that clubhouse that really does a lot for his teammates. And he does it with personality, too. He's got a good personality, and the guys like him.”
Saturday marked the 20th and final day Sanó was allowed to be out on assignment. He slashed .333/.422/.795 with three doubles, five home runs, 11 RBIs and six walks between the Rookie-level Florida Complex League Twins (five games) and Triple-A St. Paul (seven). And on Saturday, Sanó went 3-for-3 with a homer and two RBIs, a good sign that his bat’s coming around.
Sanó is as good as gone
Sanó has notoriously been a slow starter to the season -- he’s a career .210 hitter in March and April -- but he sustained a meniscus tear in his left knee on May 1 that required surgery three days later, then has been on the IL since.
The year he had at the plate prior to that was frustrating for all involved: The veteran, who signed with the Twins in 2009 at 16 years of age and has never played elsewhere, hit just .093 in 17 games. Does it make the most sense, then, to designate him for assignment?
Despite Sanó’s well-demonstrated ability to carry the offense when he’s on, Minnesota -- which has a three-game lead over the Guardians in the division -- also isn’t in position to weather another slump as the Twins battle to stay atop the Central in the second half.
“He's a great teammate,” Baldelli said. “He's a wonderful guy to have in there, and a guy that works hard, and he kind of grinds it out every day with the best of them. Regardless of how things are going, you know what you're gonna get from him.”
So where to go from here? Well, Minnesota has been without Sanó for nearly three months, and had time to feel out the best ways to fill his roles. Luis Arraez, Alex Kirilloff and Jose Miranda have each done well at first, while players like Gary Sánchez, Kyle Garlick, Byron Buxton, Arraez and Trevor Larnach have all contributed solid swings at DH.
Sanó’s three-year, $30 million contract is up at the end of this season, and the team may decline its option for 2023, meaning his time in the Twin Cities could be limited any way you look at it. So is it time to cut the cord and make room for some of the younger talent, such as Kirilloff and Miranda?
But also maybe …
Is there a way to make everyone happy? Maybe, but it’s a long shot. Should Sanó clear waivers (assuming he is DFA’d), he could accept an assignment to Triple-A. This, remember, is the guy who hit the 495-footer at Fenway last season, so if he continues to power up with St. Paul and show consistency, he could eventually be too tantalizing a “what if?” to ignore for the Twins, who would love to see that Triple-A average transfer into the bigs again.
It’ll be interesting to see how this one unfolds.