Still acting cheap, Marlins decline to offer Johnson four-year deal

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The wheels were set in motion for Josh Johnson to join a sterling class of free agent starters in two years when he and the Marlins reached an impasse in contract talks on Friday.
Agent Matt Sosnick told ESPN.com that he and Johnson were using the four-year, $38 million contract that Zack Greinke signed a year ago as a framework for a new deal with the Marlins. Florida, though, was only willing to guarantee Johnson three years.
If the Marlins could have signed Johnson to the Greinke deal, it would have been a bargain. With a career ERA of 3.40 in 481 1/3 innings, Johnson has a better track record than Greinke did entering 2009. He went 15-5 with a 3.23 ERA and a 191/68 K/BB ratio last season, and that was as a groundball pitcher working in front of a poor infield defense. He allowed just 14 homers. His 3.06 FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching) was the seventh-best mark in baseball.
Since they control him for two more years and they expect to contend next season, there’s little reason for the Marlins to trade Johnson this winter. Still, they could if bowled over with an offer. If Johnson were a free agent, there’s little doubt that he’d land a bigger contract than any available pitcher, John Lackey included.
Barring an extension, Johnson will be a part of 2011-12 free-agent class that could also include Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, Matt Cain, Wandy Rodriguez and Edwin Jackson.

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.