Minnesota Twins: If Sano cannot stick at third, then what?
The Minnesota Twins have always said Miguel Sano could continue as a third baseman at his size, what happens if he can’t stick there?
The Minnesota Twins and Miguel Sano have had quite the offseason. After finally finding his form at the plate and in the field in 2017, Sano fouled a ball off his shin ending his season. As Sano rehabbed there was always going to be questions and stress surrounding the slugger, but those questions and stress was added to as the allegations of sexual assault begin to swirl around him as well.
Sano had the ability to answer the questions regarding his rehab but as he reported to Ft. Myers he only added to it by showing up out of shape. There have always been questions on where Sano would end up defensively as a major leaguer and he had seemed to put some of those questions to bed in 2017. With the shape he showed up to spring training a few days ago, many are again beginning to wonder if as early as this season Sano may need to be moved to DH considering the factors of the leg injury and his weight.
What if Sano needs to move to DH?
Sano still has time to drop some weight to help with his mobility as a defender before the season begins, but what happens if the Twins do have to move him to full-time DH? There are options, but not as many as you would hope. In the short-term, the top answer to that question is Eduardo Escobar would come out of his utility infielder role and become the everyday third baseman.
From August 20th until the end of the season Escobar filled in well for Sano. He was able to hit .256/.301/.525 and 10 home runs. It has been clear for some time that Escobar is a very good utility guy off the bench, but is he ready to take on the full-time third base position?
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Looking down at the minors for reinforcements isn’t very promising for the Twins. In our recent re-rank of the top-100 Twins prospects, you have to go to number 20 before finding a true third base prospect in Andrew Bechtold. The next two third base prospects are Jose Miranda (#24) and Chris Paul (#46).
Looking outside the organization
With an OK option on the bench, not much in the minors, next stop is a possible trade. This scenario is the exact reason why if you go back through the team trade profiles we did this offseason we explored acquiring a lot of third baseman. A somewhat interesting name that Tom Froemming put on Twitter recently is David Freese. As Froemming said, Freese has been outspoken about his frustration with the Pittsburgh Pirates,and would provide a decent bat for the Twins as they try to replace Sano. And the price could be right.
There is a route we skipped over, free agents. Partially because I would be shocked if the Twins would admit before Opening Day, publicly, that Sano is done at third. There are a few names that could certainly boost the Twins short and long-term. Yunel Escobar and Brandon Phillips are still available. Phillips has less experience at third, but as aging players, both could be short-term stop-gaps if the Twins want to keep Escobar in the utility role.
An addition with definite long-term implications would be to add Mike Moustakas. Moustakas would look good in the middle of the Twins lineup once you start stacking him and current Twins players next to each other on the lineup card. The big “but” is what was mentioned above. This would signal the Twins waving the white flag on Sano as a third baseman which I just don’t see them doing in time to sign Moustakas.
Shuffling the Deck
Another option would be to take someone who is currently on the team and move them from their current position over to third base. With Nick Gordon knocking on the door to the majors, he could be a key to that possibility. One thought would be to allow Gordon to take over second and move Brian Dozier to third. Dozier’s bat would certainly play well there, but does he have the arm strength to play there? If the Twins were OK with the bat not playing well, Gordon may actually profile better defensively at third than Dozier with his arm strength rated at 60 by MLB Pipeline.
Next: Could the Twins still add pitching?
This whole conversation shows just how important it is for Sano to stick as a third baseman. His bat at this defensive position just gives value in ways it doesn’t as a DH or even a first baseman. Not to mention the fact that the Twins just are not prepared to replace him at third base.