The Twins finally agreed to a long-term contract with a slugging All-Star third baseman on Friday, but it wasn’t the one they’ve been pursuing for the past month.
Miguel Sano, who figures to move across the diamond to first base if Josh Donaldson accepts the Twins’ month-old free-agent offer, signaled his apparently willingness to do so by agreeing to a three-year contract with a team option for a fourth, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the deal.
Sano is guaranteed $30 million over the next three seasons, pending a physical, the sources confirmed, a number that jumps to $41 million over four years if the Twins pick up his option for the 2023 season. The deal capped a day in which the Twins also agreed to spend $18.68 million on five other arbitration-eligible veterans in 2020 — but failed to negotiate a deal with All-Star righthander Jose Berrios.
Berrios and the Twins have three weeks to work out a deal, or an arbitrator will choose from among the sides’ proposals in February. Berrios, who won 14 games and pitched in an All-Star Game for the second time in 2019 while earning $620,000, is seeking a $4.4 million salary this summer, while the Twins offered $4.025 million, a seemingly paltry gap to bridge in a payroll that totaled $119 million last year.
Among the Twins avoiding arbitration, however, were:
• Byron Buxton, who will earn $3.075 million next season, a 75.7% increase over the $1.75 million the center fielder was paid in 2019.
• Reliever Tyler Duffey signed for $1.2 million, more than double the near-minimum salary he earned last summer.
• Closer Taylor Rogers’ pay will nearly triple to $4.45 million from 2018’s $1.525 million.
• Outfielder Eddie Rosario will receive $7.75 million, an 85% raise from his $4.19 million salary in 2019.
• Reliever Trevor May, who can become a free agent at the end of the 2020 season, will earn $2.205 million, a 145% increase from last year.
All five players quickly agreed to contracts at salaries between what the team proposed and what they asked for in arbitration, a practice that has long been relatively routine for the Twins. Only two Minnesota players — Kyle Lohse in 2005 and 2006, and Kyle Gibson in 2018 — have ever had their pay set by an arbitrator.
Sano’s contract means the Twins now have three of their core players under contract through at least 2023, though the burly infielder’s $10 million average salary is significantly more than the deals signed by outfielder Max Kepler and shortstop Jorge Polanco last spring. Kepler’s deal averages $7 million per season, while Jorge Polanco averages $5.5 million. Like those contracts, Sano’s would delay his free agency by a couple of years if the Twins trigger the option.
Sano’s contract is front-loaded, sources confirmed, not spread evenly over the life of the deal, and includes a signing bonus in the guaranteed amount. There are also incentives that could add “significant” value to the deal, one said. Sano will earn $27 million through the 2022 season, and the Twins can bring him back in 2023 for $14 million or pay him a $3 million buyout.
It’s a serious commitment to the flamboyant infielder, known for his mammoth home runs — he’s hit 118 in his five major-league seasons, including a career-high 34 in 2019 — and his frequent strikeouts. Sano, 26, has yet to play more than 116 games in a season, and missed last season’s first six weeks with a serious heel injury.
But it’s also a commitment by Sano to the Twins, perhaps surprising in light of the team’s apparent desire to move him off of third base, his preferred position. Sano has yet to publicly comment on the Twins’ pursuit of Donaldson, which would likely force Sano to play first base instead.
McClure joins coaches
Bob McClure, who pitched for seven major league teams from 1975 to ’93, was named Twins bullpen coach, replacing new Mets pitching coach Jeremy Hefner and completing manager Rocco Baldelli’s 2020 coaching staff. McClure, 67, has served as a senior pitching advisor for the Twins during spring training over the past three seasons. He is also a former pitching coach, having held the job for the Royals and Phillies.
Baldelli also removed “assistant” from Rudy Hernandez’s title as hitting coach; he and newcomer Edgar Varela, hired after James Rowson accepted a job with the Marlins, will both hold that title.
Nate Dammann, who handled video replays for Baldelli last season, has been given a new title: Quality control coach. Dammann, a bullpen catcher for more than a decade, will remain the team’s video monitor in the clubhouse during games. And former strength and conditioning intern Andrea Hayden was hired full-time as an assistant to coach Ian Kadish.
Minor league hires
Other minor league managers announced by Twins affiliates: Ramon Borrego returns to lead Class AA Pensacola, and Brian Dinkelman, who appeared in 23 games for Minnesota in 2011, is back for a second season at Cedar Rapids. Aaron Sutton, head coach at Montana State-Billings the past four seasons, joins the organization as manager at Fort Myers, and Ray Smith heads rookie-level Elizabethton for a 27th season.
Each team’s coaching staff this season will include at least one Spanish-speaking coach, formalizing a policy that the Twins have been working to institute over the past several seasons.