Twins first baseman Miguel Sano is undergoing surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his injured left knee, manager Rocco Baldelli told reporters (including Britt Ghiroli of the Athletic). There is no timetable for his return, although Joe Trezza of MLB.com tweeted yesterday that Sanó would be expected back this season even if he were to go under the knife.
It’s a disappointing development for the burly slugger, who turns 29 next week. Sanó apparently tweaked his knee during a win over the Tigers on Tuesday. That kept him out of the lineup until Saturday; Sanó tried to play through the injury during that contest against the Rays, but he was removed mid-game because of continued soreness. The team placed him on the injured list yesterday with what they termed a sprain, and the meniscus tear represents further bad news.
Sanó had gotten off to a rough start even before the injury. He’s hitting just .093/.231/.148 in 17 games. He’s striking out at a 32.3% clip that’s nearly ten percentage points higher than the league mark, but that’s par for the course for him. More significant is that he had just one extra-base hit (a home run) over 65 trips to the plate. Yet he’d barreled up five balls and was still consistently hitting the ball hard, according to Statcast. That seemed to indicate Sanó would find more power production as the weather improved, but that’ll be put on hold for an indeterminate amount of time.
Throughout his seven-plus years in Minnesota, Sanó has been an up-and-down performer. He’s shown the ability to serve as a middle-of-the-order masher at times, including a 34-homer season in 105 games for the 2019 team branded as the “bomba squad.” Yet he’s also had his share of ruts as the strikeouts have mounted. His 2021 campaign was something of a microcosm of his overall tenure. He limped to a .196/.279/.426 line through the season’s first half before quietly turning in a .250/.343/.504 performance after the All-Star Break.
Sanó is playing this season on a $10.58MM salary. Minnesota has a $14MM option on his services for 2023 (with a $2.75MM buyout). Sanó needs a strong showing at the plate to convince the front office to pick up that tab. Between his slow start and injury absence, that looks to be trending towards a buyout, although the club will evaluate his recovery and post-surgery production before making that call.
Without Sanó, it seems the Twins will move forward with a combination of Luis Arraez and top prospect Jose Miranda at first base. Arraez has more experience at each of second base, third base and in left field, but he’s not a particularly strong defender at any of those spots. His contact-oriented approach makes for an atypical fit at first base (and a complete 180° turn from the shape of Sanó’s production), but Arraez has been an above-average offensive player throughout his career. Miranda was called up for his big league debut when Sanó went on the IL; he can also play multiple positions but is regarded as a bat-first infielder himself.