Miguel Sano is making $572,500 this season. That's peanuts for an All-Star third baseman, but in Major League Baseball even the best players have to wait to make the big bucks.
For Sano, he's not in line for a dramatic raise until his first year of arbitration eligibility after the 2018 season. That means the Twins don't have to pay him more than the league minimum next season ($535,000) no matter what he does this year.
But the Twins would be wise to learn from the paths the Angels and Rockies took with Mike Trout and Nolan Arenado, respectively.
The Trout route
In 2013, the Angels paid Trout – the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year – about $27,000 more than he made the year before, prompting Trout's agent to publicly rip the Angels, as noted by ESPN.
Trout wasn't eligible for free agency until after the 2014 season, but the Angels made good after a strong 2013 and gave Trout a one-year, $1 million deal. They did so even though they only had to pay him the league minimum.
The good faith move paid off when Trout inked a six-year, $150 million deal before the 2015 season began.
The Arenado route
Arenado, a perennial NL MVP candidate, made $512,500 in 2015 before receiving a raise to $5 million in his first year of arbitration in 2016.
Instead of going back to the bargaining table for another one-year deal, the Rockies gave Arenado a two-year, $29.5 million extension. The move ate up two of Arenado's final three years of arbitration eligibility, meaning they don't have to worry about giving him another raise until 2019, which would be through arbitration. He can't become a free agent until 2020.
How to deal with Sano
The Twins have three smart paths after the season, in my opinion.
- Give Sano a slight bump with a pre-arbitration raise like L.A. did with Trout.
- Forget arbitration and offer Sano a Trout-like extension.
- Settle in the middle and offer Sano a two- or- three-year deal comparable to Arenado's.
Sano might not bite
Again, the Twins don't technically have to do anything. And even if they do try to extend Sano he could do what Francisco Lindor did with the Indians and turn the offer down.
Turning down $100 million like Lindor reportedly did sounds crazy until you realize guys like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado could make $300-$400 million when they hit free agency after the 2018 season, according to MLB Trade Rumors.
And if Machado is in the $300 million range in 2019, then just imagine how big Sano's number would be if he keeps producing until he hits free agency at the age of 28 in 2022.
For the record, Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey told GoMN that he doesn't like talking contracts with players during the season, so don't expect to hear anything about Sano's status until October or later.