Cubs finally open the wallet to spend in Latin America

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Maybe Starlin Castro’s emergence has something to do with it, but after often sitting out the early-July spending spree in Latin America in recent years, the Cubs have invested in three significant prospects these last few days.

The most notable of the bunch is 16-year-old shortstop Enrique Acosta, who received $1.1 million to sign out of the Dominican Republic.  He’s expected to outgrow his current position, but he had one of the most promising bats of this summer’s class of 16-year-olds.

The Cubs also added two 16-year-olds out of Venezuela in catcher Mark Malave and third baseman Ricardo Marcano.

Castro’s emergence likely has opened some eyes and showed the Cubs brass that it’s worth buying a few lottery tickets.  Castro, who was signed out of the Dominican Republic without any fanfare in 2006, just made his first All-Star team as a 21-year-old.

For some quotes and more info on the prospects, check out David Kaplan’s article on CSNChicago.com.

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.