Barry Jackson

Marlins add three players who could be on team next season

Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich is out at second as Milwaukee Brewers infielder Yadiel Rivera turns a double play on a ball hit by Marcell Ozuna during the fifth inning of a game in April 2016. Rivera announced Friday he has signed with the Marlins. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich is out at second as Milwaukee Brewers infielder Yadiel Rivera turns a double play on a ball hit by Marcell Ozuna during the fifth inning of a game in April 2016. Rivera announced Friday he has signed with the Marlins. (AP Photo/Morry Gash) AP

Amid ongoing trade talks involving Giancarlo Stanton, the Miami Marlins this week quietly added three players who could spend at least part, if not all, of next season on the big league roster.

A quick look at the new additions:

• Yadiel Rivera. The Brewers free agent - who can play second base, third base and shortstop - announced on Twitter that he has signed with the Marlins.

Rivera is well-regarded defensively but has never hit well.

He has a career .183 big league average in 43 games for the Brewers over the past three seasons, going 15 for 82 with four doubles, three RBI and 25 strikeouts.

He hit just .240 in eight minor league seasons, with 41 homers, and .227 at Triple A.

Rivera has played 17 major league games at second base, 17 at third base and seven at shortstop. He has three errors at second and three at shortstop.

Rivera likely will compete for a backup infield job in spring training.

The Marlins are trying to trade second baseman Dee Gordon and third baseman Martin Prado.

If they succeed in trading both - and dealing Prado and the $28 million owed to him over the next two seasons will be difficult - then the Marlins might go with Brian Anderson at third base, J.T. Riddle at shortstop and Miguel Rojas at second base, unless they acquire an established big league infielder in one of their trades or sign a cheap free agent.

Derek Dietrich can play second, but some in the organization believe he has bulked up too much to play second base every day and believe he’s now better suited for the outfield.

So Rivera would project as a backup if he makes the team at all. He could end up spending at least part of the year at Triple A.

• First baseman Garrett Cooper, who was acquired from the Yankees along with left-handed pitcher Caleb Smith in exchange for minor-leaguer Michael King and $250,000 in international bonus pool money:

One scout who has seen Cooper said his swing has improved considerably and that he has big-league offensive potential but is average to below average defensively.

Cooper hit .326 with six RBI in 45 Yankees plate appearances this past season (his first big-league experience) after batting .359 with 18 homers and 84 RBI in 83 games in the upper minors in 2017. That’s about an RBI a game, which is impressive at any level.

A right-handed hitter, Cooper could be a valuable pinch-hitter off the bench and could give lefty-hitting Justin Bour days off against some tough left-handers. Cooper also gives the Marlins protection in case Bour suffers another injury.

Bour has been limited to 90 and 108 games the past two seasons, missing sizable chunks with injuries. And Bour is a career .237 hitter against lefties in 190 at-bats, though he improved in that area last season (.253 vs. lefties in 2017).

Cooper also could play outfield in a pinch; he has played 23 games in left field and 20 in right in his minor league career.

• Smith. The left-handed pitcher, like Cooper, is 26. And like Cooper, Smith has big-league potential, according to a scout, who said he has good stuff.

Smith had a 7.71 ERA in 18 2/3 innings for the Yankees last season, including two starts (his first big league experience) but he averaged 93.6 miles per hour on his fastball and had 18 strikeouts.

And Smith was very effective at Triple A Scranton Wilkes Barre, going 9-1 with a 2.39 ERA last season and 97 strikeouts in 98 innings, almost entirely as a starter.

He’s 33-24 with a 3.77 ERA in his minor league career.

Smith likely would have been taken in the Rule 5 draft if the Yankees had left him unprotected and if they hadn’t dealt him to the Marlins on Monday.

So a lefty who averaged a strikeout an inning last season is definitely worth taking a chance on.

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