Twins

Does Miguel Sano Still Have A Place In The Twins Lineup?

Photo Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

Shortly after José Miranda’s walk-off 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 may have gotten lost in the shuffle.

“Where does Miguel Sanó fit in?” I asked.

“Sanó?” My friend scoffed. “I forgot he was even on the team!”

It would be laughable to think we would be having this discussion five years ago. Sanó was a future cornerstone of the Twins, but the narrative has changed. He is working his way back from a torn meniscus, and the Twins look to be just fine without him. Sanó’s injury could spell the end of his time in Minnesota, but there could be a way to work things out. Maybe he could earn a role down the stretch.

Sanó’s best options are at first base and designated hitter if he returns to the lineup. He was the Opening Day first baseman for the Twins. Given his limited versatility in the field, it’s the best way to get his bat into the lineup.

But the Twins have a good problem in Luis Arraez. The utility man has entrenched himself at first base and is currently leading the American League in batting average and on-base percentage. He’s going to be an All-Star. Removing him 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 hurt, the Twins have better replacements on the roster. Alex Kirilloff is hitting .264 with a .727 OPS since they recalled him on June 17. Miranda is hitting .319 with a .879 OPS in his past 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 trading Nelson Cruz last year was that it opened up a spot to give players the day off in the field and keep their bat in the lineup.

No player has benefitted more from this than Buxton, who has been able to manage his balky knee by taking swings at DH. Using any of the players mentioned above at that spot gives the Twins more of an advantage than Sanó and could leave him relegated to the bench.

Even then, who would they send to Triple-A? Gilberto Celestino has been a solid depth outfielder. Nick Gordon can play all over the field and is hitting .290 since June 1. The Twins aren’t going to send down an extra pitcher, so there may not be room to bring him aboard.

Sanó is in the final year of his contract, so the Twins may look to trade him. However, that’s 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 operate machinery. The next? He looks like the second coming of David Ortiz. Those wild streaks drive Twins fans crazy, but it could remind them of someone else.

At 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 out of contention, Cleveland traded him to the Atlanta Braves.

Once he came off the injured list, Rosario entered one of his nuclear hot streaks. He hit .271/.330/.573 with seven homers in 32 games to help Atlanta win the NL East and .560/.670/1.040 with three homers to capture NLCS MVP and lead the Braves to the World Series.

You may think it’s inconceivable considering what we’ve seen from 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 launching 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 that Sanó’s supporters have dreamed of, but it has never come to fruition.

There’s also the possibility that players get hurt. If Buxton’s knee isn’t feeling well before a postseason game, sliding Sanó’s bat into the lineup isn’t the worst thing in the world. He may strike out four times. He may hit three homers. We don’t know. It’s better to have him on Minnesota’s side to find out.

It’s not the same landscape that it was five years ago, where we were waiting for Sanó to turn into Miguel Cabrera. It’s a scenario where he could help a team that has been shut out an MLB-high 11 times this season, even if he hits .200.

We’ve been down this road before. But with the Twins’ current situation, getting Sanó back may not be a bad thing.

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