The Royals announced that they have signed catcher Sandy León to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league Spring Training. The backstop is a client of The MAS+ Agency.
León, 35 in March, has appeared in each of the past 12 major league seasons as a glove-first catcher. He had one terrific season at the plate, hitting .310/.369/.476 for the Red Sox in 2016. But for his career, he has hit .208/.276/.311 for a wRC+ of 56. He got 44 plate appearances for the Rangers last year but hit just .146/.186/.195 in those.
It’s a different story when León is behind the plate, however. He has 33 Defensive Runs Saved in his career, with positive framing marks from FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus. Statcast considers him to be above average both in terms of his blocking and his work with the running game.
With MJ Melendez seemingly a full-time outfielder now, that leaves the Royals with just two catchers on their 40-man roster. Salvador Pérez has been the club’s primary backstop for over a decade, but he’s going into his age-34 season and the club might gradually wean him off the position. He made 90 starts behind the plate last year but also 21 at first base and 29 as the designated hitter. Freddy Fermin had a solid season in 2023 and should be in line to split the catching duties with Perez again this year.
León can be in camp to serve as a veteran receiver to the many young pitchers in the organization. If either Pérez or Fermin suffer an injury at any point during the year, he would be an option to come up to the big leagues. Pérez could also move to first more regularly if Vinnie Pasquantino needs to go on the IL, which would also open up a role for another catcher.
The Royals briefly used Logan Porter and Tyler Cropley as depth catchers last year. Both have since been outrighted off the roster and each is still in the organization as non-roster depth. Neither of them has more than a few weeks in the big leagues, however, in contrast to León’s 557 games in the majors dating back to his 2012 debut.