Earlier today, the Tampa Bay Rays claimed outfielder Jerry Sands off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates. In doing so, they bought low on a 26 year old outfielder and first baseman with a chance to work himself into big league time.
As it stood prior to today, the Rays were set to have Sean Rodriguez and Brandon Guyer start against left-handed pitching to replace David DeJesus and Matt Joyce. But the Rays were hoping to find a hitter with a little more punch at the plate or at least an alternate option. Jerry Sands represents exactly that. Originally a 25th round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers back in 2008, Sands has been through quite a bit the last two years. First he was involved in the blockbuster the Dodgers made with the Boston Red Sox that sent Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to Los Angeles and then he was included in the deal that brought Joel Hanrahan to Boston. Sands managed a .900 OPS and at least 25 home runs each season in the minor leagues from 2010 to 2012 and was decent in 61 games for the Dodgers in 2012, but he has appeared in just 9 major league games the last two seasons. 2013 was especially tough as he did not appear in a single game in the major leagues and managed just a .212/.315/.347 line in 410 plate appearances primarily at Triple-A. Sands has found himself stuck in Quad-A player territory and he is running out of time to change his fate. But the Rays saw enough promise in him from several different angles to bring him aboard.
The Rays are in need of a righty hitter with versatility and Sands could fill that role quite well. He is capable of playing both corner outfield positions and first base to go along with a touch of experience in centerfield and third base, and you know the Rays would take full advantage of every position he can play. More importantly, though, is his hitting against left-handed pitching. Even in what was by all accounts a lost 2013, Sands still had a .222/.364/.432 line against lefties last season, and he has a .258/.357/.481 line overall against them the last three years. Sands does have some issues with strikeouts, but he is a patient hitter with power with the ability to be an ability at least a serviceable backup at the very least. Between players like Rodriguez, Ryan Roberts, and Shelley Duncan, the Rays have had some platoon players, but they have not found the type of lefty masher and solid all-around bench player that they have been looking for. In Sands, the Rays acquired such a player at the cost of nothing but a roster spot, and he could be an interesting option to make the Rays next season.