Red Sox, Mets join list of teams linked to Lackey

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Not surprisingly, various reports following the general manager meetings in Chicago earlier this week note that the Mets and Red Sox were among teams to have talks with John Lackey’s agent.
Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald describes the Red Sox as “still in the fact-gathering stage” while David Lennon of New York Newsday suggests that the Mets are “testing waters.” Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reported previously that the Brewers met with Lackey’s agent.
Toss in the Angels’ interest in re-signing Lackey, the Yankees’ presumed interest in adding him to their rotation, plus the various other interested teams not yet heavily linked to him and … well, there’s a reason why he’s the consensus No. 1 free agent pitcher available. In writing last month about Lackey’s upcoming free agency I noted that he’s typically been one of the 10-15 best starters in the American League each season, making him a mid-level No. 1 starter.
Back then I wondered whether or not he’d top the five-year, $82.5 million deal that A.J. Burnett received from the Yankees last offseason. If the usual big spenders like the Red Sox, Yankees, Angels, and Mets are truly all in the mix that seems like a lock at this point. Lackey is a good, solid top-of-the-rotation starter, but it also looks like he stands to benefit more than anyone from this offseason’s weak crop of free agents. Can a 31-year-old pitcher with 102 career wins, a lifetime 3.81 ERA, and just one All-Star appearance get $100 million on the open market? It’s starting to look that way.

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.