Word came out a few days ago, that the Rays had claimed lefty reliever Pedro Figueroa from the Oakland Athletics. We were waiting for that to be confirmed, however, because the Rays made their signing of James Loney official, taking up the last spot on their 40-man roster. Now, the Rays have finally made their corresponding move, designating outfielder Jerry Sands for assignment. The issue is that designating Sands does not appear to make much sense. Why would the Rays designate a potential big league contributor who had an option remaining when they have so many players out of options who they could have let go?
Every Rays writer, myself included, has been using The Process Report in order to determine how many options the Rays’ various players had left. On TPR’s Options page, Jerry Sands was listed as having one option left, with that option noted as being his fourth option year. We all learned about the fourth option last year in the case of Alex Torres. Everyone thought that Torres was out of options, but the commenter “homein22” at DRaysBay brought to light that a player can be eligible for a fourth option “if he has been optioned in three seasons but does not yet have five full seasons of professional experience. A full season is defined as being on an active pro roster for at least 90 days in a season.” Looking at Torres’ career gamelogs, we see that it was not until 2009 that he finally had his first “full season,” and by 2012 he had only accumulated four such seasons. Under the criteria cited by “homein22,” he was clearly eligible for a fourth option. In the case of Jerry Sands, however, it may have been a different story.
In 2008, Jerry Sands did not have 90 days of service time as he made his pro debut with the Gulf Coast League Dodgers. Then in 2009, per his gamelogs, he was on rosters from April 27th to May 4th (8 days) and then from June 23rd to September 7th (77). He comes up 5 days short of 90 and therefore had still not made it to his first “full season.” Clearly in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013, he had four full seasons. The question is that 2009. Was it possible that there were five more days that we are missing? Well, we can definitely find four.
Sands played his final game with the Great Lakes Loons on May 4, 2009 before being sent back to extended spring training. But it was not until May 8th that they officially placed him on the “reserve list,” adding four more days to bring us to 89 total. The last day? One possibility is that in order for the Great Lakes Loons to assign Jerry Sands to the Ogden Raptors, maybe they had to call him up for some period of time–him moving to Ogden is listed on the Midwest League transactions page. The alternative is that it could be September 8th, which was the off-day between the Midwest League regular season and postseason. There were no games played in the league that day, but there would have been in the need of a tiebreaker. Whichever way we go, it is certainly conceivable that Sands did accumulate the 90 days necessary for him to have a “full season,” and that would be enough for him to be out of options now. It was a big revelation to people across the web that this fourth option exists, but we need to investigate every situation as much as possible before we are sure that the same rules apply. No offense to The Process Report–this is just a crazy situation–but it is another reminder that we cannot take anything for granted.
At the end of the day, the Rays designated one out of options player for another, and there are multiple reasons why they would do so. Figueroa features more potential that Sands with his fastball touching 99 MPH, and the Rays also probably think that he is more likely to make their roster. Brandon Guyer looks like a better option than Sands, making him a longshot to make the team, while Figueroa has better stuff than any of the other relievers competing with him for the Rays’ last bullpen spot. The Rays also might think that Sands could pass through waivers while one of their relief arms like Jeff Beliveau or Josh Lueke would not–we already saw them try to sneak Chris Gimenez through. If Sands passes through waivers, then the Rays just acquired a talent relief arm without losing depth, which would be the best possible situation. If Sands is claimed, though, it would not be the worst thing in the world either. We saw yesterday that the Rays signed James Darnell, another right-handed hitter capable of playing the corner outfield, and the Rays may be confident enough in him as insurance for Guyer. In any event, the Rays officially have Figueroa in the fold, and now we will wait to see what happens with Sands.
Correction: “homein22” correctly chimes in that Figueroa is himself eligible for a fourth option after missing 2011 due to injury. That changes the entire dynamic of the move–now he could lose out on the Rays’ final bullpen slot and spend the season at Triple-A. Ironically, I assumed thanks to The Process Report’s page that Figueroa was indeed out of options, but that appears to be incorrect.