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.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.