MLB declares Cuban defector Chapman a free agent

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In a move that was widely expected to come either this month or in early October, Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman was declared a free agent on Friday.
Chapman made it through the red tape in record time, in large part because he managed to escape Cuba with his passport. The 21-year-old defected in July while taking part in the tournament held in the Netherlands and established residency in Andorra earlier this month.
Known for a fastball that has reportedly reached as high as 102 mph, Chapman has a chance to set a new record for a contract given to a Cuban defector, surpassing the four-year, $32 million deal Jose Contreras received from the Yankees after the 2002 season. He lacks polish and may require time in the minors before helping a contending team, but his youth and huge arm will land him a big deal. Expect usual suspects like the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels and Dodgers to express interest in the left-hander.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.