Marlins not interested in Cuban free agents Dariel Alvarez and Aledmys Diaz

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The Marlins aggressively pursued Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes last offseason before he landed a four-year, $36 million deal from the Athletics, but the club has taken a decidedly different approach this winter, shedding big names while putting a focus on stockpiling prospects and fielding a team on the cheap. That’s why it comes as no surprise that Joe Frisaro of MLB.com hears that the Marlins have “zero interest” in Cuban free agents Dariel Alvarez and Aledmys Diaz.

Alvarez, a 24-year-old outfielder, and Diaz, a 22-year-old shortstop, were both declared free agents earlier this month and are slated to work out for MLB scouts on January 5. Here’s a snippet from a profile by MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez:

Known for his ability to hit for power and average, Diaz is considered an average runner with an above-average arm. He is closer to Major League-ready of the two prospects.

Alvarez, a right-handed hitter who played for Camaguey in Serie Nacional, defected from Cuba last summer and has been playing professionally in Vera Cruz, Mexico, since October. The 6-foot-2, 190 pound Alvarez can play all three outfield positions and has impressed Major League scouts with his above-average arm during league-play in Mexico.

According to the new collective bargaining agreement, Cuban players who are at least 23 years old and have played at least three seasons in a Cuban professional league are not subject to the international spending cap. Diaz turns 23 on January 8 and isn’t expected to sign before then, so teams will be free to pursue either player as they would any other free agent.

Mike Napoli and Rays have “mutual interest” in a deal

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.

Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.

Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.