White Sox and Royals interested in Brett Gardner

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Earlier this week the Royals were said to be interested in Brett Gardner, whose role with the Yankees is unclear following the trade for Curtis Granderson, and now the White Sox are reportedly interested in him too.
New York may be hesitant to deal Gardner until sorting things out with Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon, but according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times the White Sox would love to add him as their starting center fielder and leadoff man. Chicago acquiring Gardner would shift Alex Rios to right field and send Andruw Jones to DH or the bench.
That would significantly improve the White Sox’s defense, because Gardner is a very strong center fielder and Rios is excellent in a corner spot, but Cowley’s assertion that Gardner “could be on the brink of being a special prototypical leadoff hitter” is overstating things quite a bit. Gardner certainly has top-of-the-order speed, but so far at least there’s little to suggest that he has a top-of-the-order bat.
He’s 26 years old and has hit just .256/.325/.352 through 425 plate appearances in the majors, with Baseball Think Factory projecting him to bat .253/.328/.344 in 2010. Gardner’s minor-league track record is slightly more promising, but he has almost zero power and doesn’t walk much, so unless he’s able to consistently hit near .300 odds are he’ll be more like a “prototypical” fourth outfielder.

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.