Jake Sanford and Paying MiLB Players
The Yankees released former 3rd round pick Jake Sanford two days ago for theft. Let's talk about it and minor league pay in general.
Who is (was) Jake Sanford?
Jake Sanford was a third round pick, selected 105th overall out of Western Kentucky during the 2019 MLB First Year Player Draft. A left-handed hitting corner outfielder, he had a great and encouraging story about how he got to where he was. Born in Canada- which is obviously not a baseball hotspot, producing just 22 All-Star players- Sanford was a walk-on player to a community college in Nebraska, playing 2 great years before transferring to Western Kentucky (WKU), where he had to walk-on again! (Which he did.)
In his only season at WKU, Sanford hit 22 home runs and put up a staggering 1.288 OPS which was by far the best on his team, the best in the Conference USA, and was 26th best in all of college baseball that year. Needless to say, the Yankees picking him in the 3rd round wasn't seen a reach. He signed with the Yankees for $600,000 and was sent to Class A (Short Season) Staten Island where he hit to a .238/.289/.411 triple-slash over 60 games.
Sanford (as would most minor league players) miss the 2020 season and he was too young and underdeveloped to get called to be a part of the alternate training site in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. After training elsewhere, the 2021 was good for Sanford as he played in Class-A Tampa and up to Class-A-Advanced Hudson Valley while hitting to a combined .285/.356/.467 triple-slash between the two teams. He was seen as an organizational Top-30 prospect at the time.
However, Sanford did not start the 2022 season anywhere with the Yankees. It was later revealed that he was released after an internal investigation found Sanford to be begging for and stealing equipment from teammates, posing to sell the equipment online, and then scamming buyers by not delivering any product (stolen or not). Brendan Kuty of NJ.com was first with the story (sub. req.). Sanford has since signed with an independent baseball team in Canada. And that brings us up to date.
Why To Pay Minor League Players:
As quoted in the Bible (1 Timothy 6:10), "For the love of money is the root of all evil; and while some have coveted after it, they have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows". This is often misquoted to just "money is the root of all evil", because according to the Bible it is not money itself that causes people to go bad but the love of money. In layman's terms, the Bible does not say to work for no salary, but it implores us to work doing something you love and is worthwhile than working a job just because it has a high salary.
Jake Sanford is an example of somebody who was after the love of money. But, that doesn't mean that he was in a great situation to begin with.
Now, I'll preface all this with the understanding that Jake Sanford got a hefty payday in 2019 by the amount of $600,000 by being a third round draft pick. That is a lot of money and would set a large amount of people up for the greater part of a decade (if not the rest of their lives, if invested correctly and continuing work). However, very few minor leaguers get this type of bonus.
If we look at the 2019 MLB First Year Player Draft, draft slot value at or above $600,000 ended at pick 97. Within the first 510 picks (down to the end of round 17) just 102 players got bonuses at or above $600,000. (This also means that other players got under bonus slot value, which even further helps the point I am about to make.) 1,217 total players were drafted that year. Comfortably less than 102 of them got a $1,000,000 bonus.
For an early draft pick out of college, they are typically on a fast track to the MLB within 3-4 seasons. For high schoolers that moves up to 4-5 years (which explains the Rule 5 draft). During those years they make practically nothing. According to The Athletic in 2018, the average salary for minor leagues at each level was:
This is unfathomably low.
This is also the reason why so many minor leaguers have to get second jobs as Uber/UberEats drivers. One would think there is a better way.
Because there is.
How to Pay Minor Leaguers:
Let's assume each MLB team has 30 players at each of their 4 minor league affiliates. This year the average salary for an MLB player is about $4,170,000. For the price of less than two AVERAGE salaried MLB players- which is comparably nothing to owners and organizations in the MLB- we could afford a pay structure that looks like this:
Single-A (Advanced): $55,000
If we assume 30 players on every team, the total price for all 120 players would be $7,200,000.
Joey Gallo is making $10,250,000 this year.
The current minor leaguers are the MLB stars of tomorrow, but how can we honestly expect them to become the stars of tomorrow if they can't even focus on baseball? How can we expect them to be the future stars of our sport if they have to eat nothing short of ramen noodles or fast food in between driving shifts for Uber in order to pay for their groceries and rent? Wouldn't it make sense to alleviate these troubles all at once?
Wouldn't it make sense to pay minor leaguers a legitimate salary so that when they get hurt or sick they can afford to go to see a doctor outside of the guy paid by the team? Wouldn't it make sense to allow players the ability to buy healthy food, and fruits, and vegetables and not have to rely on cheapo meals to get buy outside of a small meal stipend?
Wouldn't it be reasonable to allow these players the ability to go home and relax after a long day of training, and workouts, and a game instead of having them have to go bag groceries or drive around in their cars?
Personally, I can't understand it. Aren't these owners paying high profile businessmen ad businesswomen to tell them how to get the best out of there team in the present and future?
How does cheaping out on paying their minor leaguers help with the future? Especially if it costs relatively nothing year-to-year.
The Yankees are paying Zack Brittion nearly twice as much as they would need to put into their minor leagues this year. He won't throw a single pitch for them. The Colorado Rockies are paying the St. Louis Cardinals nearly $6 million to have Nolan Arenado play for them. The Kansas City Royals are paying Zack Greinke nearly twice as much to pitch for them as a 38-year-old.
Dear MLB Owners,
Do you want to have better minor league players than your biter rival? Do you want to have better prospects to trade to another team to get back better players to help your team now? Do you want to be able to take minor leaguers from other teams and get better potential out of them from those other teams?
Listen to me. Pay your minor leaguers a legitimate wage.
Trust me, it'll pay for itself in no time when you have more Top-100 prospects than anyone else. It'll pay for itself when one extra player, every year, pans out and becomes a serviceable MLB player. It'll pay for itself when one extra player every 3 years becomes an All-Star.
There should be no complacency in your business. You should be doing everything you can to get any competitive advantage there is.
Here is the biggest one you'll ever find in today's MLB.
P.S. - If you want to hire me as a top executive for your team, I'll happily take you up on that offer. How about my salary starts at...$7,200,000? If you can afford me, you can afford to pay your ENTIRE system.