Yermin Mercedes Is The Feel-Good Story Of The 40-Man Roster Deadline
In the past two days, 108 minor league players have been added to 40-man rosters.
In most cases, they are players in their fourth or fifth year of pro ball. They were added to protect their MLB teams from losing them in the Rule 5 draft.
For all of them, this is a dramatic change. Being added to the 40-man roster ensures a spring training invite to big league camp. That ensures exposure to the big league coaches throughout February and March. It also means they received a first-class ticket to fly to spring training from wherever they live.
And once they get to spring training, they will receive roughly $350 a week in per diem. If they don’t stay at the team provided hotel, they receive a little more than $40 a day for a housing allowance.
In a dream scenario, the player makes the MLB roster when spring training concludes. If so, for every day on the MLB roster he’ll earn roughly $3,000 a day, meaning he’ll make more every day than he ever made in a month in his minor league career. And the club will pay for “first class hotel accommodations” as he settles into the city with his new team.
But even if the player doesn’t make the MLB roster, his minor league pay will go from roughly $2,000 a month to a minimum of $46,000 a year. That player will go from making so little that he will need to earn enough in the offseason (or get help from friends and family) to support his baseball career to making solid money.
And if that player gets to the majors for even one day. His minor league salary gets another massive boost. A player with MLB time has a minimum salary in the minors of a little more than $90,000 a year.
All 108 players have reasons to celebrate being added to the 40-man roster. In addition to the financial benefits, the addition is also a massive validation that the MLB team has noticed them. They are in the team’s long-term plans.
Watch this video recorded last November by Jesica Beaty as she was driven to tears explaining what it meant to hear that her husband Matt Beaty was added to the roster.
It’s easy to be happy for all 108 players, but if you want to pick a player to be especially happy for, celebrate White Sox catcher Yermin Mercedes’s addition to the 40-man roster.
Mercedes spent three years in the Dominican Summer League with the Nationals before being released before the 2014 season. If he wasn't a catcher, that likely would have been the end of the story. But because he was a catcher, he'd been brought over to the States for spring training before he was released. (Teams always need large numbers of catchers to catch bullpens at camp). Because he was in the States and had a visa, he was able to latch on to play in the independent Pecos League. The Pecos League is the independent league for baseball lifers. Travel is rough. Pay is absolutely minimal. The hope in the Pecos League is to be signed to a higher-level independent league where there are better facilities and better pay.
Mercedes did well enough in the Pecos League to jump to the United League by the end of the season, where he played six games for former MLB manager Doc Edwards and the San Angelo Colts. The United League folded at the end of that season, but Mercedes by that point had caught the eye of the Orioles.
Baltimore signed him and sent him to low Class A Delmarva. He showed a solid bat with Delmarva in 2015, but was sent back there for the 2016 season as well. He finally hit his way out of low Class A by hitting .345/.404/.570 between Delmarva and high Class A Frederick in 2016.
Mercedes finally made it to Double-A at the tail end of 2017. When the season ended, he’d spent seven seasons in minor league baseball. He’d played 12 games above Class A. And once again he was reminded that he wasn’t really all the wanted.
The Orioles could have protected him from the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft by making him one of the 38 players they place on their Triple-A roster. They put him on the Double-A roster instead, which was a declaration that there were 78 other players they would rather protect.
The White Sox picked him in the 2017 minor league Rule 5 draft. In the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft, there are no further roster rules. Once he was drafted, he was now a White Sox. He’s played well since then. So now he’s been added to the 40-man roster after hitting .317/.388/.581 between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte last season.
This is no guarantee that Mercedes will play in the majors -- although being on the 40-man roster makes the path much easier. But even if he doesn’t, he’s made it in a way. Being released while playing in the DSL. Playing in the Pecos League. Being left available in the MiLB Rule 5 draft are all the game’s way of trying to get a player to hang it up.
Mercedes has endured low pay for years. He’s been an afterthought on most every team he’s played on.
Yesterday, the game finally rewarded him for his perseverance.