Cuban players Dariel Alvarez and Aledmis Diaz officially have been declared free agents, according to Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald. First reported by Mark Sanchez of MLB.com on Nov. 27, both players were expected to hit the open market in early December after establishing residency in Mexico.
Diaz, 22, was playing with the Cuban National team when he defected last summer and had played in Cuba’s premier league, Serie Nacional, since 2007. Regarded as the more advanced player, comparatively, the 6’1”, 185-pound shortstop has a projectable bat with power potential, as well as solid range and a strong arm.
Alvarez, a 24-year-old outfielder, also defected from Cuba last summer after playing in the Serie Nacional. However, unlike Diaz, the 6’2”, 190-pounder has been playing in front of scouts for a professional team in Vera Cruz, Mexico.
Because both players have played at least three seasons in a Cuban league and are at least 23 years old—Diaz will turn 23 in early January—they will be exempt from the international spending restrictions under the new collective bargaining agreement and free to command a larger contract.
Several Cuban prospects received large contracts last season, the most notable being the A’s Yoenis Cespedes who signed a four-year, $36 million deal last February and subsequently served as the driving force behind the team’s upstart offense. Two more outfielders signed with a big league team in June, as the Dodgers signed Yasiel Puig to a seven-year, $42 million deal, and the Cubs locked Jorge Soler into a nine-year, $30 million contract.
While neither player will be given a monster contract like the aforementioned outfielders, Diaz is likely to draw more interest than Alvarez given his advanced bat and speed, as well as the ability to play a premium position. He’s only a few years away from being big league-ready and would likely start the 2013 season at an organization’s Class-A affiliate with a chance to move quickly.
Although it’s currently unknown which organizations might be interested, teams such as the Pittsburgh Pirates, Minnesota Twins or San Diego Padres, who each lack a legitimate shortstop prospect, could be interested.