Jerry Sands, Vince Belnome See Their Rays Tenures Enter Limbo
By Robbie Knopf
When the Tampa Bay Rays decided to pick up Joel Peralta’s option, whether he would help their bullpen was only one consideration involved. Just as important, especially for the short-term, was Peralta’s presence on their 40-man roster. The Rays had to compare the value of Peralta not just against their other relievers, but against all of the players in the mix for spots on their 40-man roster. The Rays decided to keep Peralta, which forced them to get designate two players for assignment instead of one. Their roster casualties were Jerry Sands and Vince Belnome.
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The Rays announced that they have designated Sands and Belnome for assignment to accommodate Matt Moore and Joel Peralta on their 40-man roster. Moore and Sands had to be reinstated from the 60-day DL, but Sands did not last there for long as the Rays needed to make room for Peralta. While Sands and Belnome both received big league time in 2014, neither showed enough to have a place with the team moving forward.
The fact that Jerry Sands is being designated for assignment does not mean that he is a bad player. The 26 year old hit to a .268/.352/.474 line at Triple-A and it is not difficult to see his power and plate discipline and see a potential big league bench player. However, he found himself the odd man out among more talented and/or proven Rays outfielders. Wil Myers, Desmond Jennings, Brandon Guyer, and Sean Rodriguez are righty-hitting outfielders on the Rays’ 40-man roster, and Mikie Mahtook will soon join them as the Rays protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. The Rays may deal Matt Joyce, but Sands is not a fit to replace him.
Sands can take solace in the fact that he got back on track at Triple-A and returned to the majors after being in the minors for all of 2013. He will hope to get claimed by another big league team, but he has the ability to elect free agency if he goes unclaimed because the Rays outrighted him from their 40-man roster back in January.
The Rays added Belnome to their 40-man roster last offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, but Belnome took too much of a step backwards this season. His OPS slipped from .854 in 2013 to .740 in 2014, not a good sign for a player who will have to hit well to be more than a Quad-A player. Belnome is in a tough spot because he is a poor defender everywhere but first base yet lacks the power to profile at first. The Rays hoped that his excellent plate discipline and relatively neutral platoon split would be enough for him to be a big league backup, but neither skill looked as impressive at Triple-A this year.
Belnome’s case was hurt even more because the Rays acquired Nick Franklin in the David Price trade and saw Cole Figueroa deliver a breakout season. He was interesting as a possible lefty bench bat, but now that need no longer exists for the team. Nevertheless, the Rays hope that Belnome will pass through waivers and remain in the organization. Unlike Sands, he cannot elect free agency.
It is always a sad day when you have to let a couple of players go, but housecleaning was always going be necessary for the Rays as they hoped to eliminate redundancies on their 40-man roster. The Rays will expect that Sands will become a free agent and that Belnome will be outrighted to Triple-A as they decide who will be their next roster cuts.