Indians trade with Red Sox for catcher León

December 4th, 2019

The Indians used Monday’s non-tender deadline as an opportunity to make a backup-backstop switch.

The Tribe traded with Boston for and came to terms with him on what The Athletic reported to be a one-year, $2 million contract for 2020 to avoid arbitration. That trade and signing made Kevin Plawecki -- the Indians’ 2019 backup catcher who was also arbitration-eligible -- expendable. Plawecki, who made $1.137 million in 2019, was not tendered a contract ahead of Monday’s 8 p.m. ET deadline and is now a free agent.

Cleveland also came to terms with utility man Andrew Velazquez on a one-year deal for 2020 and tendered contracts to its other arbitration-eligible players -- Francisco Lindor, Nick Wittgren, Mike Clevinger and Tyler Naquin. Right-hander James Hoyt was originally designated for assignment in the León trade, which sent Minor League right-hander Adenys Bautista to the Red Sox.

On Thursday, the Tribe re-signed Hoyt to a 2020 Major League deal to bring its roster total back to 40 players. He pitched 8 1/3 innings in the big leagues for the Indians in 2019, allowing a pair of runs on six hits.

In acquiring León prior to Monday’s deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players, the Indians had the chance to negotiate with both León and Plawecki and, essentially, leverage them against each other. Ultimately, they locked in León, who has performance bonuses in his contract related to games played.

With having emerged as the top catcher on the Red Sox depth chart and León, who made $2.475 million last season, entering arbitration for the fourth and final time this winter, León was himself a non-tender candidate in Boston.

León, 30, is a switch-hitter coming off three rough offensive seasons. From 2017-19, he logged 239 games, 780 plate appearances and a .199/.259/.312 slash with 17 homers and 29 doubles. It was a much different story in 2016, when he slashed .310/.369/.476 in 283 plate appearances across 78 games.

On the defensive side, however, León’s 32.2 career caught-stealing percentage (58-for-122) is fifth-highest among active catchers. Going back to 2015, Boston pitchers have posted a 3.74 ERA with León behind the plate, the fifth-lowest ERA among backstops with at least 300 games caught.

The 21-year-old Bautista pitched at the rookie level in 2019, compiling a 7.79 ERA in 14 relief appearances in the Dominican Summer League and the Arizona Rookie League. He was signed out of the Dominican as a teenager.