The Rangers and veteran catcher Sandy Leon have agreed to a minor league contract, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (Twitter link). Leon, a client of the MAS+ Agency, will be in Major League camp this spring.
Leon, 33, split the 2022 season between the Guardians and Twins, batting a combined .169/.298/.211 in 86 plate appearances. It’s a small sample of playing time, but that’s generally representative of the level of offense the switch-hitter has provided over the course of his career. Outside of an anomalous 2016 season that saw Leon post a brilliant .310/.369/.476 batting line (124 wRC+) in 283 plate appearances, he’s generally been a well below-average hitter. Since the conclusion of that career-best 2016 campaign, he’s turned in a .190/.260/.292 line (48 wRC+) in 1167 trips to the plate.
Offense, clearly, isn’t the reason Leon continually draws interest from big league clubs. He’s regarded as an excellent defender and game-caller, generally posting above-average to plus framing marks while doing a good job controlling the running game. Leon has thrown out 30.3% of runners who’ve attempted to steal against him in his big league career, piling up 34 Defensive Runs Saved along the way and regularly stealing a healthy share of extra strikes for his pitchers.
The Rangers don’t have a dire need for catching help — far from it, in fact. On the big league roster, it’s likely that Jonah Heim and Mitch Garver will split the lion’s share of catching duties, and Texas has former top prospect Sam Huff as another alternative on the 40-man roster. Huff hasn’t yet carved out an everyday role for himself, but he’s just 24 years old and carries a .263/.321/.447 line in 165 big league plate appearances. Heim’s defensive prowess, Garver’s power and Huff’s penchant for strikeouts might all combine to push Huff to Triple-A to begin the season, but Garver is a free agent next winter, so Huff could play a more prominent role before long. If Leon heads to Triple-A Round Rock to serve as a backup catcher, he’ll provide a nice veteran mentor to work with Huff throughout the minor league season.