Twins looking to move Sano to outfield spot?
Club doesn't want Rookie of Year Award finalist to be full-time DH
MINNEAPOLIS -- With Torii Hunter retiring and outfielder Aaron Hicks being traded to the Yankees for catcher John Ryan Murphy, the Twins appear to be getting more serious about moving Miguel Sano to the outfield in the short term next season.
Minnesota has made it clear that it doesn't want Sano, 22, to be the regular designated hitter next season, and with Korean first baseman/DH Byung Ho Park potentially on the way after the club submitted the winning bid for the slugger, there's a logjam at first and third base with Joe Mauer and Trevor Plouffe on the roster.
The Twins could still trade Plouffe to open up third base for Sano, but right now, they are exploring other ways to get Sano into the field. Sano is expected to begin to work at both corner outfield spots in the Dominican Winter League, and he will do the same in Spring Training.
"He would be a corner," general manager Terry Ryan said. "We haven't quite decided which it's going to be yet. But he's athletic enough, and he can really throw, and he can run enough that there shouldn't be too many obstacles here with him having the ability to make the transition. It's always a risk, but we think he can do that."
The Twins have an opening in their outfield, as Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario are frontrunners for two spots. Max Kepler, ranked as the club's No. 6 prospect by MLB.com, is also in the mix, but he could start out at Triple-A Rochester. Oswaldo Arcia and Danny Santana are both coming off disappointing seasons, but they remain in the mix as well.
With Sano potentially moving to the outfield, the Twins believed they had a surplus of young outfielders, which allowed them to make the trade for Murphy to address a need at catcher.
"I think Sano adds to that depth," assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "Plus Kepler having good year last year, we hope he's not too far off. Plus we like a couple other guys in the Minors as well. And we can put Santana back out in center field. I think when you add those things up, we felt like we could replace Aaron and that Murphy would be the catching help we were looking for."
Sano, at 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds, would easily be one of the biggest outfielders in baseball, but the Twins believe he's athletic enough to make the switch. Manager Paul Molitor, though, admitted it's still a bit of an experiment, as it's something Sano worked on during practice before games, but the American League Rookie of the Year Award finalist has never played outfield in a game.
"He was out there a lot," Molitor said. "You saw a lot of tentativeness around the wall and things like that. He can catch the ball in the air, but it's just a matter of learning to read the ball and where to play. Situations are a lot of different in the outfield. I don't know if it's going to work or if he'll ever see one inning out there. But I think we have to at least keep that open as a potential option."