The Marlins announced a series of nine minor league signings on Wednesday, each of which contains an invitation to Major League Spring Training. In addition to confirming their previously reported signing of former All-Star Matt Kemp (more on that here), the Miami organization will bring two former big leaguers to camp: catcher Ryan Lavarnway and right-hander Josh A. Smith. Rounding out the list of non-roster invitees are catchers Brian Navarreto, Santiago Chavez and BJ Lopez; infielders Gosuke Katoh and Christian Lopes; and right-hander Aaron Northcraft.
Lavarnway, 32, has appeared in the Majors in eight of the past nine seasons — 2016 being the lone exception — but never tallied more than 166 plate appearances in a single MLB campaign. He’s a career .211/.270/.343 hitter in 445 trips to the plate at the big league level, and he owns a lifetime .272/.364/.426 batting line in 2055 Triple-A plate appearances spread across nine seasons. Lavarnway boasts a 31 percent caught-stealing rate in Triple-A but has struggled more in the Majors (20 percent).
Lavarnway has typically hovered around average in terms of pitch-framing in the upper minors (with the 2018 season being a notable outlier that saw him rate rather poorly). Miami has Jorge Alfaro and Chad Wallach on the 40-man roster but was thin at catcher beyond that, so the quartet of Lavarnway, Navarreto, Chavez and Lopez will add an influx of depth at the position.
Smith, also 32, pitched in 31 innings for the Red Sox in 2019 and has compiled 158 1/3 frames in the Majors between the Reds, A’s and Red Sox dating back to 2015. He has a career 5.40 ERA and a near-identical 5.37 FIP with averages of 7.5 K/9, 4.0 BB/9 and 1.65 HR/9 to go along with a 40.6 percent ground-ball rate.
The overall profile on Smith isn’t particularly appealing at first glance, but his curveball may have caught the attention of the Marlins. Smith ramped up the usage of his hook to a career-high 23.1 percent in 2019 and logged a career-high 12.1 percent overall swinging-strike rate (15.3 percent on the curve). Statcast pegged the spin rate on Smith’s curve in the 95th percentile among MLB hurlers, so perhaps the Marlins will look to more aggressively utilize that offering in hopes of coaxing better results out of the journeyman 32-year-old.