Monday, June 20, 2016

The (apparent) end of Sano in the outfield

Terry Ryan, in his semi-regular radio appearance Sunday, said that the current plan is for Miguel Sano to go on a rehab assignment later in the week. And when the big guy returns to the majors, it won't be as an outfielder.

He'll DH, the general manager said, while deferring to the absent manager, Paul Molitor. He'll play third base some. He might even play some first base. But not right field, which was Sano's usual position before his hamstring pull, because of the leg issues. Sano's future? Said Ryan: "No question, it's third base."

No question? Really, Mr. Ryan?

I am, let us say, dubious of the implication that it will be easier to keep Sano healthy and in the lineup as a third baseman. I can, off the top of my head, rattle off the names of several third basemen whose careers were curtailed or limited by back problems, from John Castino to Ryan Zimmerman. Anecdotally, the position seems to be tough on backs.  And personal experience tells me than hamstring issues and back issues tend to go hand in hand; an injury to one often presages an injury to the other.

That said, Ryan has more qualified medical and training advisors than me. And Sano obviously did not fare well in the outfield. I've said before that there is probably never going to be a position at which Sano is the best defensive option; wherever he plays, there's going to be a trade off of defense for offense. Which makes the question: Where does Sano least hurt the club? The Twins brain trust decided early in the offseason that the answer was right field, in part because that allowed Trevor Plouffe to remain the third baseman.

Another question: How do the Twins reshape the roster if Sano is no longer to play outfield? Ryan has in the past suggested that maintaining Sano's weight is a reason to have him playing a position and not be primarily a designated hitter. In the short term, DH may have to be the fall back, as it was in the second half of 2015. If he's going to be the DH the rest of the way, there's no real purpose to Byung Ho Park's presence on the roster.

But if Sano is "no question" a third baseman in the future, that takes away Plouffe's position. (And if he's no longer an outfielder, that makes it easier to give Max Kepler a sustained opportunity.) I said in today's print column that I will be disappointed if the Twins don't deal away at least one of their veteran infielders before the trading deadline, and I focused on Plouffe and Brian Dozier.

I wrote that before hearing Ryan. Nothing I heard him say contradicts my thinking, even though his concern is fitting Sano into the lineup rather than Jorge Polanco. Third question: Why not both?

Bottom line: The Twins shaped their 2016 plans around Sano in the outfield. 2016 has not gone well, and that plan is being jettisoned. But the roster has to be reworked to reflect that new reality.

1 comment:

  1. This is the plan until the situation changes.

    Bringing in Park was an acquisition to wonder about?

    Twins already had more DH candidates on the team and in the minor leagues than they will ever need.

    Was there an unannounced failed trade that now creates a glut at the DH position?