The Mariners could be getting serious about Nelson Cruz

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FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported yesterday that the Mariners were showing “strong interest” in free agents Fernando Rodney and Nelson Cruz. From what Jim Bowden of ESPN.com and MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM is hearing, it sounds like they could be getting serious about signing one of them:

Of course, that the Mariners are interested in Cruz isn’t really news. Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik admitted as much during the team’s recent fan fest, but he also expressed concern about salary demands and the draft pick compensation factor. The Mariners have already given up their second-round pick for Robinson Cano, so signing Cruz would cost them their third-round pick. Keep in mind that they would also give up the draft pool money associated with each pick.

Bowden wrote earlier this afternoon that the Orioles and Rangers are also in the mix for Cruz. However, the Rangers are mostly being viewed as a fallback option in the event that his market completely collapses. Spring training is just a couple of weeks away, so something will have to give soon.

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.