MINNEAPOLIS — Miguel Sano’s career as a Minnesota twin, a journey that began almost exactly 13 years ago as one of the most promising prospects the team ever signed and included moments of triumph, of frustration, controversy and numerous strikeouts, ended on Monday. The Twins announced that, rather than retaining him for $14 million next season, they would pay the 29-year-old slugger a $2.7 million buyout and allow him to become a free agent.
With the end of the World Series, baseball’s offseason activities began in a hurry for major league teams. The Twins were no exception when their remarkable shortstop Carlos Correa, as expected, opted out of his three-year contract and became a free agent.
The Twins also released pitchers Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer, turning down options that would have netted them $11 million and $10 million, respectively. Veteran starters, who have combined to start 54 games but average less than five innings per game, will also receive buyouts, Bundy $1 million and Archer $750,000.
The pair failed to revive their flagging careers, with Bundy leading the team in runs and home runs allowed in 140 total innings, with Archer leading the Twins in the steps despite pitching just 102 2/3 innings.
But Sonny Gray, who has posted the lowest ERA by a Twins starter since Johan Santana left more than a decade ago, learned Monday on his 33rd birthday that he would be returning for a second. season. The Twins activated the option clause in Gray’s contract, paying him $12.7 million for the 2023 season, his 10th in the major leagues.
None of the four decisions came as a surprise. But unlike the three pitchers, each of whom has only been with the Minnesota organization for a year, Sano’s departure carries with it a piece of history. Sano, who surprised the baseball world by turning down the Pirates, his longtime suitors, and signing a $3.15 million contract with the Twins as a 16-year-old shortstop on October 9, 2009. has long been considered one of the cornerstones of the twins’ future in baseball.
Sano’s arrival in the major leagues with Byron Buxton in 2015 energized a franchise that had endured four dismal straight seasons of 70 or fewer wins, and rookies helped deliver an 83-79 record. Sano hit 18 home runs in half a season, leading the Twins with .916 OPS and finishing third in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
Two seasons later, Sano was an All-Star third baseman, ripping a two-out single in the fifth inning to drive home future teammate Jonathan Schoop with the first run in the AL’s 2-1 victory at Miami. Perhaps more memorable was his performance a night earlier, when Sano advanced to the final of the Home Run Derby, edging out Mike Moustakas and Gary Sanchez in the first two rounds before being beaten by Aaron Judge 11-10. .
During his career, Sano was a loud and vocal voice in the Twins clubhouse but also a frequent source of controversy, first on the pitch as the Twins tried to find a position for him, trying third base, right field and first. base. Off the court, Sano was charged with assault in 2018 by a photographer, who said he tried to forcefully kiss him at a Twin Cities mall in 2015, a charge Sano has denied. MLB investigated but declined to suspend him for the incident.
The following offseason, Sano was arrested in the Dominican Republic for allegedly stepping on the foot of a police officer who was investigating why the vehicle he was driving lacked a license plate. These charges were eventually dropped.
Sano’s weight was a matter of annual speculation, and his plate discipline was a yearly goal for improvement, but the Twins, hoping his power output would continue to rise, signed him to a $30 million contract extension. dollars over three years shortly before spring training in 2020. He hit 13 homers during the shortened pandemic season, and another 30 in 2021, but a knee injury ruined his 2022 season. Sano only played only 20 games, all but three in April, and batted just .083 with a home run.
Sano’s 162 home runs as a Twin rank 11th in team history, and his .482 hitting percentage is eighth best. But his 1,042 strikeouts are second only to Harmon Killebrew, who has played more than three times as many games as Sano. In 2021, Sano became the fastest big league to reach 1,000 strikeouts, doing so in just 661 career games.