Can you imagine signing a $597,000 contract to play in the New York Yankees minor league system right out of college, only to ruin it all by scamming fans and stealing bats, gloves and equipment? Jake Sanford, the Yankees third-round pick in 2019, was cut by the club on May 12 for multiple infractions, including allegedly hounding teammates for equipment that he would then sell online. According to NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty, Sanford scammed other players, selling any equipment, including gloves and bats, that they’d given him or that he could steal. As if selling stolen equipment wasn’t bad enough, Sanford then defrauded fans by selling them the stolen “memorabilia,” but never delivering.
Sanford was drafted out of Western Kentucky and was making steady progress towards the big leagues, hitting .285 with 16 home runs, 61 RBIs and a .823 OPS. You can be a generational talent and get away with being a Joanne the Scammer archetype, but not some JAG prospect who hit 267/.332/.446 and stole seven bases between Low-A and High-A ball. He’s clearly no Rickey Henderson, which is probably why he was caught so easily.
Now Sanford finds his baseball career stuck in a pickle. You could understand if he was one of the many minor league prospects who are grossly underpaid, but that’s not the case here. Sanford was No. 24 on the Yankees MLB Pipeline before the 2021 season. Sanford was a good prospect for the New York frickin’ Yankees. In the long run, being a big league Yankee would have earned him more lucrative opportunities than a few thousand dollars at an online auction. To make matters worse, sources told the New York Post that Sanford was trying to pay off gambling debts.
These allegations don’t bode well for his future in Major League Baseball. It’s tough to comeback to becoming known as the prospect who stole from teammates, defrauded fans to compensate for a gambling problem. However, it’s not impossible. The scouting report on Sanford compared his skillset to Brett Gardner, but off the field, he is more akin to former Yankees center fielder Ruben Rivera. A little over 20 years ago, Rivera was playing on a one-year $1 million contract when he stole a glove from teammate Derek Jeter and sold it to a memorabilia dealer for $2,500. Jeter probably didn’t miss the glove, but clubhouse theft is a big no-no and a breach of trust.
Rivera also railed against the organization for immediately waiving him when they’d stuck by players accused of more egregious offenses in the past. The same is true today for the modern Yankees who welcomed back Domingo German in 2021 after a domestic violence incident involving his girlfriend. Rivera would resume his career by signing a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers, was released after the season and then was released by the San Francisco Giants. I’ll personally never understand trading cards or obsessive memorabilia culture. It seems like a great method to launder money. The value of collectibles is unregulated and their sentimental value is greatest with the original seller. Who exactly was Sanford stealing from in the minors that has value on the market? Jason Dominguez is the Yankee’s diamond gem international prospect, but he’s struggling mightily and expectations for him are deflating. If Sanford did sell Dominguez memorabilia, he’d better sell fast.
Like Rivera before him, Sanford will likely attempt a comeback after this all blows over, and the Astros should be his first call for franchises willing to move past a little locker stealing scandal. The interest might be mutual.