Helms, Olivo join Marlins

Helms, Olivo ink one-year pacts with Marlins

MIAMI -- For much of the first half of their offseason, the Marlins streamlined payroll by trading away a number of their top players.

As the New Year approaches, the Marlins are retooling their roster with a couple of more veterans to join a youthful squad.

On Friday, the Marlins announced the signings of free agent catcher Miguel Olivo and infielder Wes Helms to one-year contracts.

Olivo immediately becomes a contender for a starting catcher spot. The team has been leaning toward using Josh Willingham behind the plate. A solid hitter and converted infielder, Willingham is still learning the finer points of the position.

The addition of Olivo, who spent last season with the Mariners and Padres, gives the Marlins a proven defensive catcher. The arrival of Olivo could mean Willingham may also be used some in left field.

The 27-year-old Olivo hit .217 with nine homers and 34 RBIs in 2005. He struggled at the plate in 54 games with Seattle, batting .151 (23-for-152) with five homers and 18 RBIs. In 37 games with the Padres, his hitting picked up as he hit .304 (35-for-115) with four home runs and 16 RBIs.

The Marlins now have four catchers on their 40-man roster: Olivo, Willingham, Matt Treanor and John Baker, claimed off waivers from Oakland.

In a wild offseason, the Marlins dealt away several star players for young, untested pitchers. There will be extensive competition for two or three rotation spots, and new manager Joe Girardi wants a number of catchers in Spring Training to handle all the young pitching.

Olivo broke in with the White Sox in 2002. The most work he's seen in a season was in 2003 in Chicago, where he played in 114 games. He is a career .229 hitter.

Adding Helms, meanwhile, gives the Marlins experienced depth at first base and third base, as well as a pinch-hitter. In 95 games with the Brewers last year, he batted .298 with four homers and 24 RBIs.

As of now, the Marlins are intending on starting left-handed hitting Mike Jacobs at first base. Jacobs is expected to get a chance to start against right-handed and left-handed pitching. Helms offers a seasoned backup, and a right-handed hitting first baseman.

Helms, 29, also will backup two-time All-Star Miguel Cabrera, who is being switched to third base after being the regular left fielder for much of 2005.

The Marlins welcomed Helms and Olivo one day after signing infielder Pokey Reese and reliever Joe Borowski.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.