As usual, Scott Boras draws a crowd

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He only represents the third-biggest available free agent at the moment, but Scott Boras still draws a crowd. This was the man holding court, as he does every year, right outside the media room.

It was hard to get close, but I heard him say something about 31 or 32 being young these days.  Tune in the next time he has a 27 or a 28-year-old free agent and ask him again what prime baseball-playing age is.  Gotta love Scotty.

The reason he was here: his client, Carlos Pena, just held a press conference in the wake of his signing with the Cubs. It was fairly straightforward. Lots of questions about why he was below the Mendoza Line this year (answer: I won’t be next year). Lots of questions about why he chose Chicago on this particular deal. He did not actually say “because I want to be like Adrian Beltre and have a big value-building year before I hit the market again next year,” though that was clearly what he was getting at in most of his answers.  And for that very reason this seems like a really smart deal for Pena.

I’ve only been in close proximity to Pena a couple of times, but he’s pretty charming and seems like one of baseball’s brighter bulbs.  And he dresses well.  And, if asked, I bet he wouldn’t start spewing birther nonsense. Such a more reasonable day in here today than it was yesterday.

Only weird note in the whole thing: Pena started out by saying that he was a Cubs fan as a kid and that he “remembered watching George Bell.”  George Bell played exactly one season for the Cubs: 1991.  It was an OK, but by no means great season for Bell, after which he was traded to the White Sox for Sammy Sosa.

Must have been particularly memorable for Pena, I guess.

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.