Rumor: Orioles “locking in” on Mark Reynolds

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Justin Upton has grabbed plenty of attention in trade talks this winter — and understandably so — but Mark Reynolds remains the most likely Diamondbacks player to be suiting up elsewhere next season. Here’s the latest.

Buster Olney of ESPN.com hears that the Orioles are desperate for right-handed power and are “locking in” on Reynolds as a solution. Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Orioles continue to show the “heaviest” interest in the free-swinging slugger. Interestingly, officials from the Padres and Blue Jays — two teams previously reported to be interested in Reynolds — “strongly deny any interest at all,” according to Rosenthal.

Reynolds batted .198/.320/.433 with 32 homers, 85 RBI and a 753 OPS with the Diamondbacks this past season. He has led the majors in strikeouts in each of the past three seasons. The 27-year-old third baseman signed a three-year contract extension in March and is owed $5 million in 2011, $7.5 million in 2012 and either an $11 million option or $500,000 buyout in 2013.

As for who the Diamondbacks may want in return, Jon Heyman of SI.com tweeted earlier today that Chris Tillman’s name has come up in trade talks. Tillman has struggled to translate his minor league success to the majors thus far, posting a 5.61 ERA over his first 23 major league starts, including a 5.87 ERA and 31/31 K/BB ratio over 53 2/3 innings this past season. There’s no question that his stock has taken a hit, but he doesn’t turn 23 until next April.

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.