Twins lock up Sanó with 3-year extension

January 15th, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins stuck with through strikeout troubles, conditioning issues, an ill-fated outfield experiment and several stints on the injured list, and he rewarded them last season with his finest campaign as a professional. The Twins paid Sanó back by officially announcing a three-year contract extension for the slugger on Tuesday.

Sanó is guaranteed $30 million over the next three seasons, with a $14 million club option for 2023. According to a source, Sanó will earn $7 million in '20, $11 million in '21 and $9.25 million in '22, with a $2.75 million buyout for the subsequent option year. Sanó can also add up to $3 million to the option via performance-based escalators.

The slugger was previously eligible to be a free agent after the '21 season, but his new deal buys out the remainder of his arbitration years and up to two years of free agency.

"I don’t think about the money," Sanó said. "I think about playing with the Twins. I take my future, my family -- that’s the biggest point for me right now."

With free-agent third baseman Josh Donaldson agreeing to a four-year, $92 million deal with Minnesota on Tuesday, according to multiple sources, Sanó should slide across the diamond in 2020 to serve as the everyday first baseman for the first time in his career. Sanó has appeared at first base in 31 games through his five Major League seasons, but he said that he has been taking ground balls at both third and first this offseason.

Sanó hit .247/.346/.576 with a career-high 34 homers in 105 games last year after missing all of Spring Training and the start of the regular season due to a freak offseason injury, and he's eager to see how that performance will translate to a full season. Now that Sanó has secured his family's financial future, he feels more freed up to focus his desire of playing healthy seasons.

"I think it's important for me now ... to think about what I did last year," Sanó said. "If I play an entire season, I can probably double those numbers. The most important thing is just see what happens now moving forward and just play the game I know how to play."

That quote captures the essence of both the risk and upside of this deal for the Twins. Sanó did seem to turn a corner last year after he worked tirelessly to slim down over the offseason, made some mechanical adjustments and subsequently posted the best hard-hit rate and second-best barrel rate in the Majors, per Statcast.

On the other hand, Sanó has alternated effective and shaky seasons throughout his five years and has never played more than 116 games or made more than 495 plate appearances in a Major League season due largely to health or underperformance. But Twins Latin America scouting director Fred Guerrero, who became close with Sanó when he originally scouted the slugger, feels that Sanó has turned a corner.

"He's really matured," said Guerrero, who first saw a 13-year-old Sanó in the Dominican Republic. "He's come a long way. He's starting to figure out how to be a better professional baseball player, how to take care of his body, what to do in the offseason. Now he doesn't need somebody with him the whole offseason telling him what to do. He's gotten way better."

Tuesday also marked an emotional day for Guerrero, he said, because the three headliners of the 2009 international signing class that he worked so hard to help build -- Sanó, Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco -- are now all locked down with long-term contracts. Guerrero hopes that the Twins' continued commitment to their young international players sets a strong culture and example for other cornerstone pieces that could follow.

"That's good for guys coming up like [Luis] Arraez and [Brusdar] Graterol and some of the others, to have those three guys stay here with us," Guerrero said. "I think that's a good culture that we can start building on.

"Some of those guys have come a long way, and some of those guys have gone through injuries, and we've stuck with them and showed them that we care. It's basically all about the opportunity they get to play. We don't trade many of our young guys. I think that goes a long way, and I think it's good for players to stay with one team."

With that in mind, Sanó said that it was a rather easy decision to stay with the Twins once he learned from his agent that a longer-term offer was on the table. Of course, Sanó enjoyed the club's success during its run to an American League Central championship in 2019, but he said that had less to do with his decision than his attachment to the organization.

"Regardless of winning or losing, I’ve made up my mind that I want to spend my entire career here," Sanó said. "So this is the first step."