It was not difficult to see Jerry Sands‘ potential during his time with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2014. On June 15th, Sands pinch-hit in a 3-3 game in the 8th inning and delivered a go-ahead RBI single. He did even better the next day, pinch-hitting again in the 8th and delivering a game-winning two-run home run off Brian Matusz. The fans who had been clamoring for Sands to be promoted from Triple-A were justified and they could not wait to see what other big hits Sands would deliver. Instead, Sands collected just one more hit as a Ray before hitting the disabled list and did not play again all year.
Was 2014 a failure for Jerry Sands? The answer is unclear. Sands played well at Triple-A Durham and returned to the major leagues, but he also saw his season end prematurely and injuries become another question about his game. When you are a 27 year old hoping for a big league job, adding injury risk to the dreaded “Quad-A player” label only makes your journey tougher. However, there is one other positive for Sands from 2014 that would be easy for us to overlook: his salary.
Sands was originally an 18th round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers, and his signing bonus at the time was just $5,000. Minor salaries are notoriously low–there was a class-action lawsuit about that filed earlier this year–so Sands spent the first three years of his professional career treading water financially. Finally in 2011, he cracked the major leagues, spending 72 days on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ active roster in addition to his 97 days at Triple-A. That earned him $171,565 between the prorated version of the MLB minimum salary that year ($414,000) and his Triple-A salary ($2,150 per month).
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For the following year, Sands’ salary in the minor leagues could be no lower than 60% of what it was the previous season according to the MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement. If he received the full 40% pay cut, then he was paid at a rate of $102,391 per season for his time in the minor leagues in 2012 along with a prorated version MLB minimum of $480,000 for his time in the minor leagues. He spent 19 days on the Dodgers’ roster along with 122 days at Triple-A, netting him $133,279 total.
Then, in 2013, Sands struggled after moving onto the Pittsburgh Pirates and did not play a single major league game. With that in mind, he earned around $80,500, the minimum salary for second-year players on 40-man rosters. Then, this season, Sands was set to make around the same number over the course of the season until the Rays promoted him on June 1st. He was placed on the 15-day DL on June 23rd, but he continued to accrue big league service time. As a result, Sands was on the Rays’ roster for 119 days in addition to his 58 days in the minors, earning him a total of $354,525. That pales in comparison to what MLB stars make, but receiving that much money gives Sands plenty of flexibility entering this offseason.
Now that Sands has been designated for assignment, any team in baseball can claim him. Unfortunately for him, that does not seem likely. However, since Sands was outrighted to Triple-A by the Rays back in January, he has the ability to decline this second outright assignment and declare free agency. When he does, money will be the last thing on his mind as he looks for the right fit.
With the Rays, Jerry Sands found himself amid a crowded outfield picture. Now, his only objective will be to find the team that gives him the best chance to make the major leagues, even if such a team would only sign him at a lesser salary. Sands’ season-ending injury must have been frustrating, but the fact that he earned major league money for four months could make all the difference for him moving forward. Most Triple-A veterans with limited MLB experience sign with the team that offers them the most money as they hope to support their families. Jerry Sands, meanwhile, only has teams’ big league outfield situations to worry about as he chooses his next organization.