The Minnesota Twins have spent most of June slowly gaining ground on the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central.
Early next month, the Twins could quickly gain ground on the rest of the Major League Baseball when it comes to high-profile international signings.
The Twins are one of a small handful of teams reported to be very interested in making a play for Dominican slugger, Miguel Angel Sano when the international signing period opens on July 2.
Sano is a 6-foot-3 slugging shortstop from the Dominican Republic who has been compared to everyone from Hanley Ramirez to Alex Rodriguez. Oh yeah, and he recently turned 16, the magical age that makes international players eligible to sign with a Major League club.
Reports say he has great raw power to all fields and only figures to get better and stronger as he fills out. Although currently a strong-armed shortstop, most scouts assume he’ll transition to third base as he grows into his body.
As one might expect, teams all over the league are drooling over the prospect of signing such a commodity, but only a few are seriously considering investing the money it would take to land Sano.
Reports vary from one source to another but it’s believed that Sano is seeking a signing bonus comparable to the $4.25 million the Oakland Athletics gave Michel Inoa a year ago.
The Twins, despite their usually frugal ways, are heavily in the mix for Sano’s services and have had scouts monitoring him frequently in recent weeks. The two other leading suitors are rumored to be the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles.
The Twins went as far as to initiate an investigation to ensure that Sano is actually 16-years old, a move that was promptly piggy-backed by MLB as it launched a similar investigation.
Given the intense scrutiny many international signings have come under in recent years it seems like a wise move for both the Twins and MLB to have all their bases covered before any record-breaking deals are inked.
Although only 16, Sano would almost-immediately become the top prospect in the Twins farm system, especially given the lack of top-tier talent at shortstop and third base.
Scouts have said they believe Sano could ascend through the minors in much the same fashion as Miguel Cabrera did with the Florida Marlins after he was signed in 1999. Cabrera spent three and a half seasons in the minors before he cracked the big league roster in 2003 at age 20 and never looked back.
The Cabrera comparison is intriguing because the Twins once had Miguel Cabrera in their Venezuelan academy and it was believed to be a sure thing that he would end up signing with the team. In the end, the Marlins offered a $1 million signing bonus—which was four times what the Twins had offered—and the Twins lost out on a franchise talent.
Signing Sano would be a huge investment and a big gamble for a club known for pinching pennies, but the potential reward could be worth every one of those pennies if Sano can live up to the hype the scouts have created.
Imagine if the Twins had paid the price to land Cabrera a decade ago. The Twins would be a very different team today. Here’s hoping Twins fans don’t have to look back in ten years and think the same thing about Miguel Angel Sano.