The Twins on Wednesday selected the contract of veteran catcher Sandy Leon — acquired in a minor league swap with Cleveland yesterday — and designated veteran right-handed reliever Joe Smith for assignment (Twitter link via Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com). Minnesota also reinstated lefty Caleb Thielbar from the 15-day injured list and optioned catcher Caleb Hamilton to Triple-A St. Paul.
Smith, 38, signed a one-year, $2.5MM deal with the Twins late in the offseason. He’s currently sporting a lackluster 4.61 ERA through 27 1/3 frames, though that number is disproportionately skewed by a nightmarish appearance on July 17, when Smith took a six-run drubbing at the hands of the White Sox in an 11-0 blowout loss. Setting aside that one awful outing, he’s otherwise pitched to a 2.67 ERA.
The Twins, however, rarely gave Smith eighth-inning work and often relied on him in innings five through seven, often entrusting higher-leverage innings to Jhoan Duran, Griffin Jax, and (with far less success) Emilio Pagan and Tyler Duffey. Smith has been homer-prone this year even if one is willing to charitably overlook that White Sox implosion, and lefties have absolutely torched him, posting a .303/.410/.606 batting line in 39 plate appearances.
In the past, the sidearming Smith has excelled in terms of limiting hard contact. After a brief hiccup in that regard in 2020, he bounced back in 2021 — not to his prior peak, granted, but an 87.9 mph average exit velocity and 35.2% hard-hit rate were both solid enough marks. This season, Smith has yielded an average exit velocity of 89.2 mph, however, and a hefty 42.1% of batted balls against him have left the bat at 95 mph or greater.
Smith is still owed about $879K of this year’s $2.5MM salary, and any team that claims him will be responsible for the remainder of that sum. If he goes unclaimed on waivers, he can reject a minor league assignment in favor of free agency while still retaining the entirety of that remaining salary. A new team would only be responsible for the prorated portion of the league minimum upon signing Smith and adding him to the big league roster. The Twins, of course, can no longer trade Smith now that yesterday’s deadline has passed, so he’ll be on either outright waivers or release waivers within the next few days.
As for Leon, he’ll give the Twins a defensive-minded backup who’s long drawn praise for his receiving skills and defense — even as they’ve been coupled with anemic offense. At this juncture of his career, the 33-year-old switch-hitter is the consummate veteran backup. He went 2-for-15 with a pair of singles but six walks earlier this season with the Guardians and has a .226/.340/.333 slash in 100 Triple-A plate appearances between Cincinnati and Cleveland on the year. He’ll give the Twins a solid glove and veteran game-caller while they await the return of 25-year-old Ryan Jeffers, who’s out several more weeks with a broken thumb.
It’s possible that the Twins will continue to roster Leon even after Jeffers returns, as Leon would still be a better defensive backup behind the plate than Gary Sanchez, who could revert back to a primary designated hitter role. Beyond that, Major League teams will get a couple of extra roster spots in September, making it easier to roster both Leon and Sanchez. The Twins have regularly carried three catching options in previous seasons.
Yeah I remember Joe Smith 6’10 and used to play for the Warriors right?
3.09 fip grab him Mets!
lol FIP. Yeah that’s something to base decisions on
Ah that is the same Joe Smith that’s was on the angels a while back. He’s having an off year but it’s still interesting he was DFA’d. Looking at his stats he’s still be generally a good pitcher.
My sources tell me Trout is going to be on the trade block this offseason
Love that Magic 8-Ball.
@Camden453- That’s great, the Yankees should trade for him, when I leave for San Francisco.
Blue Jays? To see if it can work out?
@big boi- your goin’ trade Vladdy for Trout?
@big boi- lmao. Of course you can’t. What about Gabriel Moreno and Randy Tiedemann? Lmk
Bring him home Billy!
@D2323- Trout is a New Jersey kid, and a big Phillies fan, not a Mets fan. My guess is he goes to Philly if he is traded.
A lie passed on as truth.
I was referring to the subject of this story, the DFA of Joe Smith, who started his career with the Mets and who I want Mets GM Billy Eppler to bring back.
@D2323- ok I apologize. I hope you get him back.
I think he’s hurt. He was very effective through May 21 (1 run in 16 appearances) when he threw an inning and a third. But after that he went down hill quickly. In his next eight appearances through June 10 he was scored on in six of them, and since June 15 he’s only made eight appearances.
He might be OK in low leverage spots, but Rocco was throwing him out there whenever a starter left a couple on base and he was getting GDP at will. He had 12 inherited runners in the good times and only two since mid-May, which shows where the Twins’ thinking lies.
This guy has Red Sox written all over him I’m guessing that’s where he ends up.
@Bruin1012- why in the hell would he want to go to the Red Sox? Seriously?
Because it’s one of the few teams he hasn’t played for yet. Going for the cycle it seems.
you should post less
Gee I don’t know Capn because he might actually get a chance to pitch. Plus he’s not a free agent yet he has to go through waivers first and Boston can just claim him so it’s not really up to him.
@Bruin1012- I’m truly sorry. I was talking about Trout, not Joe Smith. Are you guys resigning Devers?
Going back to Cleveland ?
I’d be all for it, but CLE is still in a roster crunch. Someone will have to be moved off the 40-man which would be the stopper imo.
Perry should be on phone in 3…2…1. Come back to the Halos Joe!
Bring Joe Smith back to NYM. Full circle career moment and can add veteran, postseason experience to the bullpen.
I don’t understand why the twins keep DFAing guys that might be serviceable, and keeping Pagan
AGREED!! Pagan is Ron Davis Part II
And then they swapped him for Hader!
Or Duffey. He is horrible
Or Duffey. He is horrible now
Sandy Leon is better defensively than Gary Sanchez. So is a cinder block, so not actually a compliment.
I think that underscores the importance of guys like McGuire. Good defensive catchers are becoming more and more highly valued, regardless of their offensive stats.