Saunders, Feldman and Wuertz agree to new deals

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Joe Saunders.jpg– The Angels and Joe Saunders avoided arbitration on Friday by agreeing to a one-year, $3.7 million contract. The 28-year-old southpaw asked for $3.85 million and was offered $3.6 million when arbitration figures were exchanged last week, so he settled for a little less than the midpoint. Saunders was 16-7 with a 4.60 ERA in 31 starts last season. He was 7-0 with a 2.55 ERA over his final eight starts after serving a stint on the disabled list due to a shoulder irritation.

– The Rangers and Scott Feldman avoided arbitration by agreeing to terms on a one-year, $2,425,000 contract. Feldman, who was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, asked for $2.9 million and was offered $2.05 million when figures were released last week. Though he didn’t start the season in the rotation, the 26-year-old right-hander surprised by finishing 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. He’s not nearly as good as the wins would have you think, but as Fangraphs astutely pointed out, his cut fastball was worth 25.9 runs last season, leading the majors. Yes, even better more than Mariano Rivera.

– Finally, the Athletics inked right-hander Michael Wuertz to a two-year, $5.25 million contract with a $3.5 million club option for 2012. According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the 31-year-old right-hander will earn $2.2 million in 2010 and $2.8 million in 2011. The Athletics can buy out the option for $250,000. Wuertz compiled a 2.63 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 102/23 K/BB ratio in 78 2/3 innings with the Athletics last season, emerging as one of the best set-up men in the majors.

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.