Miguel Sano was promoted to the major leagues Thursday as the Twins’ highest paid international prospect. He lost that distinction before ever taking an at-bat.
The Twins have agreed to a $4 million contract with 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Wander Javier, the team confirmed, outstripping the franchise record $3.1 million they paid Sano in 2010.
The deal does not become official until several more steps are complete — a physical, visa clearance, age verification — but Javier represents an investment of three summers of scouting and evaluating.
“He has the tools and talent, we believe, that make him a viable projection as a five-tool talent, someone who profiles at high levels both offensively and defensively, and at a premium position,” said Mike Radcliff, the Twins’ vice president for player personnel, who personally scouted Javier more than a half-dozen times since 2013. “At the same time, we’re talking about evaluating a 14-, 15- and now 16-year-old player. You take in as much information as you can and try to make an informed decision, but there is no way to even know what all the variables are, much less how they’ll affect him as he develops into an adult.”
Still, the Twins have been impressed with Javier’s speed and defensive ability, enough to be reasonably confident he will remain at shortstop, and they are intrigued with his ability to hit with gap power. “This is a guy we liked better than anybody else,” Radcliff said of Javier, ranked as the fourth-best Dominican prospect by the website DPL. “What we see, what we believe, what we project, is that he has a chance to be special. Some of our comps [comparisons] are very successful players. And the commitment we’re making illustrates that.”
Signing Javier empties the Twins’ bonus pool, set by the commissioner’s office at $3,948,500, but the Twins may still sign another player or two; they can trade bonus money with other teams, though the Twins have never done so.
That the Javier signing comes on the same day as the Sano promotion is mere coincidence, Radcliff said. But it’s still meaningful.
“People say, ‘You’re finally promoting [Sano]. He just turned 22 — what do you mean, ‘finally’? “ Radcliff said. “But the organization should be proud today. From ownership’s commitment to go ahead [with his signing], for all the people who have worked with him, to the scouts, to player development, to strength and conditioning guys, for the coaching — there should be a sense of pride, no matter what happens starting today. To get to this point is a big deal.”
And maybe someday — say, 2021, at the earliest — Javier will, too, though he will receive nowhere near the attention as he develops. “Shortstops are on a little different trajectory. [Javier] doesn’t have the obvious, immediate visual [impression] that Sano had,” Radcliff said. “But I think we’re all excited to see where he goes from here.”