JANUARY 4: Leon’s deal comes with a $1.25MM base salary if he makes the MLB roster, with additional incentives available, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link).
JANUARY 3: The Marlins have signed catcher Sandy Leon to a minor league deal. The contract contains an invitation for Leon to attend Miami’s big league Spring Training camp. In addition to Leon, the Marlins also officially announced six other players (infielder Eddy Alvarez, catcher Brian Navarreto, and right-handers Zach Thompson, Alexander Guillen, Anthony Bender, and Luis Madero) received spring invites on minor league contracts.
A veteran of nine big league seasons, Leon is best known for his five seasons with the Red Sox from 2015-19, a stint that saw him collect a World Series ring in 2018 and unexpectedly step up as an offensive threat (.845 OPS in 283 plate appearances) in 2016. That 2016 campaign stands out as a big outlier amidst Leon’s overall career numbers, however, as he has a .216/.284/.327 slash line over 1379 career PA.
Leon didn’t even reach that modest level of production in 2020, as he hit .136/.296/.242 in 81 PA with the Indians. It’s pretty clear Miami isn’t signing Leon for his bat, but rather his well-documented defensive skill — Leon is well-respected as a game-caller and he was an above-average pitch-framer in both 2018 and 2019. Leon also has some impressive caught-stealing numbers over his career, though those totals have dipped over the last two years.
The signings of both Leon and Navarreto add some depth to a Marlins catching mix that consists of Jorge Alfaro and Chad Wallach. Alfaro is coming off a tough season at the plate, but as a former top prospect, he’ll be given plenty more chances to firmly establish himself as a regular backstop. Wallach is another defense-first catcher, so with Leon now in the mix, Wallach will need a solid showing in Spring Training to retain his job on the active roster.
Navarreto is back in Miami after making his MLB debut with the team last season, appearing in two games. Originally a sixth-round pick for the Twins in the 2013 draft, Navarreto has hit .214/.264/.307 over 1753 career PA in the minors (in the Twins and Yankees farm systems) without ever reaching Triple-A ball. He signed a minor league deal with the Marlins last winter but naturally never appeared in the minors due to the cancellation of the minor league season.
Alvarez is the only other member of the group to appear in the majors, as he hit .189/.268/.216 for the Marlins last season in the first 41 Major League plate appearances of his career. Alvarez’s MLB debut made headlines, as the former Olympic silver medal-winning speed skater became the first former Olympian (in a sport besides baseball, of course) to appear in the majors since the legendary Jim Thorpe. Beginning his career as an undrafted free agent, Alvarez has hit .278/.375/.413 with 40 homers over 2430 minor league PA, working mostly as a shortstop but also playing a significant amount of second and third base.