Progress being made in labor negotiations; deal could be done this week

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Jayson Stark and others are hearing this afternoon that some serious progress has been made in labor negotiations over the new collective bargaining agreement. There’s a decent chance that a deal could be done this week, in fact, though Stark has other sources telling him that’s a 50/50 proposition.

Of course, my counterparts at ProBasketballTalk would probably kill for 50/50 all season, let alone this week, so let us not be pessimistic.

The holdup — which is no surprise if you’ve read our stuff on the CBA for the past couple of years — is the owners’ insistence on hard slotting for draft picks.  The progress seems to be coming in the from of some mechanism other than a hard draftee bonus cap that nonetheless depresses signing bonuses.

All of which seems strange to me as a sticking point. I mean, I know why the union is holding firm: it’s a principle thing on never allowing salary caps of any kind anywhere.  The owners, though? Draftee bonuses get tons of headlines but they represent such a small fraction of overall payroll. Like a really, really small amount. The top pick gets what a slightly above average veteran second baseman gets over a couple of years. Seems like a strange place to make a stand.

But it doesn’t sound like the hardest stand, and it seems like labor peace is close at hand.

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.