Veteran catcher Sandy León has triggered an opt-out clause in his minor-league deal with the Guardians after being informed he would not make the Opening Day roster, tweets Zack Meisel of the Athletic. He’ll return to the open market.
It’s not uncommon to see non-roster veteran players either trigger opt-outs or request their release late in spring camp after being informed they won’t make the big league club. Most veterans of León’s ilk would prefer to scour the market to see if a more immediate big league opportunity awaits rather than head to Triple-A.
That said, León’s opt-out comes as a bit of a surprise — not that he didn’t accept a Triple-A assignment, but that he didn’t break camp with the major league team. The 33-year-old had seemed the favorite for the #2 catching job behind Austin Hedges to start the year. Luke Maile is expected to open the season on the injured list due to a strained left hamstring. That leaves 23-year-old Bryan Lavastida as the only other healthy backstop on the 40-man roster.
The Guardians could roll with Lavastida as Hedges’ backup, but he has just 36 games of experience above A-ball in his professional career. Cleveland’s #16 prospect according to Baseball America, Lavastida is a fairly well-regarded young player, but he’d probably stand to benefit from a few more reps against high minors pitching. León’s release leaves just organizational veteran Mike Rivera and 22-year-old prospect Bo Naylor — both of whom are coming off rough minor league seasons — as non-roster invitees in MLB camp. The Guardians could still look to acquire another veteran backstop via waivers or minor trade in the next week, but it seems as though Lavastida is now the favorite to break camp behind Hedges.
León, meanwhile, heads back to free agency in search of a new landing spot. He’s offered very little at the plate in recent seasons, but he’s earned a big league look in ten straight years based on his acumen behind the dish. León is coming off a .183/.237/.267 showing in 220 plate appearances with the Marlins.