Minnesota Twins: Brain Fog-The Twins Should Move on from Sano

We are officially 2 months into the MLB lockout and it has been quieter than a ghost town. Any current news regarding baseball has everyone excited, even if it is pointless information. Minnesota Twins fans deserve a little more excitement from the team.

Instead of keeping track of assistant hitting coaches signing with different clubs, how about we keep dissecting the Minnesota Twins’ roster and seeing how we can make them contenders, maybe even a surprise trade.

Welcome back to my series Brain Fog, where I will be making outlandish takes about the Minnesota Twins and trying to back them up with reasoning and logic. Anything can happen in baseball, so why not make that approach with fun scenarios that no one will entertain? Let me take the time to entertain you.

 

Minnesota Twins

Minnesota Twins first baseman Miguel Sano connects for a single against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. (Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

First, the setup for the Minnesota Twins

Twins fans….it is time to accept the reality. This is not the same player from 2019. Sano has shifted out of his natural position over to first base and has been up and down with his offensive production. He put up 112 OPS+ in 2021 with 183 strikeouts which shows me that he is swinging for the long ball or is walking back to the dugout after strike three.

30 homers and 24 doubles seems like solid power production, but this only resulted in 75 RBIs and 68 runs. You would think a player in the 97th percentile in Avg Exit Velocity, 98th Percentile in Max Exit Velocity, 99th Percentile in Hard Hit%, and 97th Percentile in Barrel% would have higher production.

Sano eclipsed the majority of his counting stats in 2019 with 90 less ABs. The simple answer is: he cannot hit the baseball consistently. The biggest argument for keeping Sano would be the contract.

Sano is under contract for $9.25 Million in 2022 and a $14 million in 2023. That is a salary the Minnesota Twins like to work with. But for a player only putting up 1.1 WAR, is he worth the investment? C.J Cron put up 3.4 WAR and only cost $7 million in 2021. More affordable guys are available who can match Sano’s production at the plate and also in the field.

 

Minnesota Twins

Adrian Houser of the Milwaukee Brewers throws a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)

The Minnesota Twins make the first move: Trading Miguel Sano for Adrian Houser

The Twins need pitching more than anything. If trade rumors are happening in the Twin Cities it is most likely revolved around obtaining starting pitching. The first step is to view a team with an overabundance of pitching. Next is to match their needs with what you can offer. Lastly is to aim towards teams in contention who are desperate for that need. This brings us the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Brew Crew need a power bat and are beyond desperate for it. Eduardo Escobar is gone, Keston Hiura and Christian Yelich seem lost, and Rowdy Tellez is a lit match waiting to be blown out. If the universal DH comes to fruition, this team is one power bat away from helping change their course in the NL.

The Brewers don’t spend money, so Miguel Sano is the perfect target for their DH. What do the Twins want in response? Why not Adrian Houser? Houser came out of nowhere in 2021 after being in the league for 6 seasons. He went 10-6 with a 3.22 ERA, 142.1 IP, 105 SO, 1.28 WHIP, and a 2.1 WAR.

This would easily be a 2-4 starter on any team and depending on who the Twins add in free agency, possibly a 1. The most attractive component to Houser is that he is only getting 2 million a year. This is Moneyball at its finest.

 

Minnesota Twins

Kyle Schwarber of the Boston Red Sox watches his home run against the Houston Astros during Game Three of the American League Championship Series. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Who will replace Sano for the Minnesota Twins?

Here is when Twins fans are saying, “cool trade bro, who’s playing first base or DH?”. Well the answer is simple: Kyle Schwarber. He has proven that he can play the corner outfield positions while also holding his ground at first base.

Schwarber put up a .985 fielding percentage at first which tops Sano’s .975. So defense takes a little upgrade at first base. The biggest upgrade is definitely the offense. Schwarber had an excellent 2021 by producing a 148 OPS+, 32 HR, and 3.2 WAR.

The clutch hitter produced over a third of his career WAR in 2021. The percentile rankings look incredible for him, as he was 90th in avg exit velo, 98th in max exit velo, 93rd in hard hit %, 95th in xwOBA, 93rd in xSLG, 96th in barrel %, and 89th in chase rate. Schwarber showed elite plate discipline and the results show it.

What will this FA signing cost the Twins? Schwarber will cost about 8 million more than Sano for AAV. So the Twins shedding 8 mill by obtaining Houser will offset any losses in salaries. But with Sano going up to 14 million in 2023, this actually saves the Twins 4 mill every year of Schawaber’s deal. He will sign for 4 years so overall Minnesota saves 8 mill in value.

Having a player like Kyle Schwarber will allow Donaldson to get time at DH and Jose Miranda at 3rd. This is ideal for Miranda’s development and to prolong Donaldson’s career so he can stay on the field.

Sano cannot play the outfield which also gives Schwarber more value. Byron Buxton has injury history, and you never know if Max Kepler or Alex Kirilloff were to go down with injury, So having a repertoire at your disposal is worth the extra 8 mill in salary.

The Risk for the Minnesota Twins

The only risk with this move is if Kyle Schwarber can consistently play first base. He had very limited time at the position in the regular season and he struggled at first during the playoffs. But with offseason training and spring training, he should convert just fine to be an average defender at first.

Formally being a catcher will help him tremendously with the transition. As for Miguel Sano, he will have a good season in Milwaukee. The ball flies out of Miller Park (it is forever Miller Park) and that should help build his confidence and his plate approach. I predict he has a WAR of 2-3 going into 2022.

The Final Minnesota Twins Fog Thought

Years of disappointment and underachieving will lead to reevaluating the current situation and making changes to improve production. This is a business, and business decisions need to be made.

For the Minnesota Twins, this decision is moving on from a system developed player who has only known Minnesota Twins baseball. Fans will miss his Target Field moonshots, but I guarantee you they will trade that away for a chance to compete for the AL pennant.