The Diamondbacks announced Wednesday that they’ve acquired infielder Ildemaro Vargas from the Pirates in exchange for cash. Infielder Domingo Leyba was designated for assignment to clear a spot for Vargas, who is returning to the club that originally gave him his first Major League opportunity.
Now 29 years old, the switch-hitting Vargas made his MLB debut with the Snakes back in 2017. He was an up-and-down utility piece for them up through the 2020 season, when Arizona designated him for assignment and flipped him to the Twins for cash. That kicked off a series of team changes for Vargas, who has since ridden the DFA carousel from Minnesota to Chicago (Cubs) to Pittsburgh before today’s return to Arizona.
Vargas batted .257/.287/.387 in 265 plate appearances with the D-backs from 2017-20 but has struggled in limited action since that time. He’s tallied 70 plate appearances between the Twins, Cubs and Pirates but managed only a .167/.214/.292 output. Now back with the Diamondbacks, he’ll likely serve as a bench option and provide some depth at second base, third base and perhaps in the outfield corners.
The 25-year-old Leyba came to the Diamondbacks in 2014’s three-team swap that sent Robbie Ray to Arizona, Shane Greene to Detroit and Didi Gregorius to the Yankees. The addition of Ray obviously proved to be of great benefit for the Diamondbacks, but Leyba hasn’t panned out as they hoped. He’s just 7-for-47 with a 29.6 percent strikeout rate in 54 MLB plate appearances — including an 0-for-22 showing so far in 2021.
To his credit, Leyba has hit well in parts of two Triple-A seasons, slashing a combined .311/.361/.547 in 535 plate appearances. He’s also out of minor league options, generally light on power and is not regarded as a top-tier defender anywhere in the infield. He has experience at shortstop, second base and third base. A club with room on its big league bench could take a shot on Leyba, but neither FanGraphs nor Baseball America ranked among the organization’s top 30 prospects heading into the 2021 season.