With contract extension unlikely, Nationals may look to trade Josh Willingham

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Josh Willingham is under team control for one more season as an arbitration eligible player and would like to sign a contract extension to remain in Washington, but Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports that the Nationals aren’t interested in giving him a long-term deal and may look to trade him.

Willingham, Adam Dunn, and Ryan Zimmerman were the only Nationals hitters with more than 300 plate appearances to post an OPS above .700, so trading Willingham while seeing Dunn depart as a free agent would leave an already weak lineup looking very bare.

However, it doesn’t really make sense to give Willingham a long-term contract when he’s already 31 years old and has never been an elite hitter. He’s a solid-hitting corner outfielder who gives back some of his offensive value with poor defense, and those just aren’t the types of players you want to commit to into their mid-30s.

General manager Mike Rizzo has said that keeping Willingham for 2011 and letting him walk as a free agent is an option, but also told Kilgore that the Nationals have been getting calls from several teams interested in him. That he’s coming off August knee surgery may complicate things a bit, but Willingham is expected to be fully healthy by spring training. The question is whether he’ll still be with the Nationals by then.

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.