Dating back to the trading deadline the Nationals have been searching for a long-term solution in center field and Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports that they could turn to Japanese star Norichika Aoki if other options fall through.
Aoki is expected to be posted for bidding by the Yakult Swallows at some point later this month, so the Nationals would have to submit the highest bid for his exclusive negotiating rights and then work out a separate contract with the 29-year-old outfielder.
Aoki is a lifetime .330 hitter in Japan, but the speedy left-handed hitter batted a career-low .292 with just four homers this season and has reached 20 homers just once. At best he projects as a potential leadoff man, but he may end up being a better fit at the bottom of the lineup.
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.