Nationals, Adam LaRoche finalize two-year, $16 million deal

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Adam LaRoche and the Nationals made things official this afternoon, as Washington announced a two-year contract with the veteran first baseman.

He’ll get $7 million in 2011 and $8 million in 2012, and the deal also includes a $10 million mutual option or $1 million buyout for 2012. In other words, he’s guaranteed $16 million for two seasons.

Washington has made upgrading the defense a priority this offseason and going from Adam Dunn to LaRoche at first base will definitely help the team’s run prevention in a big way, but the downgrade offensively is likely even bigger.

During the past three seasons LaRoche has hit .269 with 75 homers and an .823 OPS, while Dunn has hit .255 with 116 homers and a .906 OPS. Of course, the price tags are also much different, as Dunn signed a four-year, $56 million contract with the White Sox.

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.