MINNEAPOLIS — Miguel Sano was 13 years old when Fred Guerrero first laid eyes on him.
As he continued to watch Sano, Guerrero, then a scout, saw a young kid, a shortstop who he projected as a corner infielder. One who would keep growing and keep getting stronger. One who caught his attention because of the easy contact he made with the ball.
“For a 14-, 15-year-old kid, hitting a ball 400 feet, you don’t normally see that — and he was hitting (with) a wood bat,” remembered Guerrero, the scout who signed Sano and is now the Twins’ Director of Latin America Scouting and U.S. Integration. “… He did that pretty easily. He caught peoples’ attention, even people that have no idea what a baseball player looks like.”
Sano has come a long way since those teenage years — on a path that hasn’t always been easy, on or off the field — but Tuesday, the Twins made another investment in their slugging third baseman when his three-year contract extension worth a guaranteed $30 million was made official. The deal, which has a club option for a fourth year, is a reward for the 26-year-old from the Dominican Republic whose growth and maturity in 2019 helped propel him to a career season.
“I remember when I be at home with my family the first day of the year, when I told my wife, ‘I think I’m going to arbitration.’ A week after, my agent called me and told me, ‘You’ve got a deal on the table. Do you want it?’ ” Sano said. “I said, ‘Yeah, let’s go take it.’ Because I don’t think about the money. I think about (playing) with the Twins. I take my future, my family, that’s the biggest point for me right now.”
Now, Sano won’t have to worry about money — or anything other than playing. He is the third piece of the Twins’ young core that they have locked in after agreeing to extensions with Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco at the start of spring training last year.
Sano’s deal will pay him $7 million in 2020, $11 million in 2021 and $9.25 million in 2022. The Twins hold a $14 million option that includes performance incentives that could increase that number for 2023; if they don’t exercise that, there is a $2.75 million buyout.
The deal comes after a season in which Sano hit .247 with a .346 on-base percentage and a .576 slugging percentage. He set career highs with 34 home runs and 79 RBIs a season after struggling with conditioning and getting shipped to Class-A Advanced temporarily a season prior.
After working hard on his training last offseason, Sano began the 2019 season on the bench with an injury he suffered during the championship parade for his winter-ball team. Upon his return in May, he was able to show off the results of his hard work.
“I showed what I can do. Last year was a statement,” he said. “I didn’t play the entire season and I put up good numbers. I know they know what I can bring to the table. I’m really looking forward to keep doing that.”
Sano has kept the same offseason routine he had last year, though this time, he’s planning on skipping winter ball. He has been working out at both third base and first base, he said, and where the Twins use him in 2020 is still up in the air, as they have a need for a corner infielder and have been pursuing third baseman Josh Donaldson.
It’s no matter for Sano, who said he is willing and able to do whatever it takes for the Twins — the team that took a chance on him and has stuck by him.
“I think regardless of winning or losing, I’ve made up my mind,” Sano said. “I want to spend my entire career here, so this is the first step.”