As further proof of what a buyer’s market this offseason is for relief pitching, the Indians have signed Dan Wheeler to a minor-league contract.
Wheeler is certainly far from a great reliever, but he’s been a solid, dependable setup man for the better part of a decade and yet couldn’t even secure a big-league contract coming off a season in which he threw 49 innings with a 4.38 ERA and 39/8 K/BB ratio for the Red Sox.
Wheeler fares poorly against left-handed power hitters, but he throws strikes, misses plenty of bats, and has been very effective versus righties while posting a 3.88 ERA in 628 career innings. He’ll have to fight for a middle relief gig during spring training after making $3 million in 2011.
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.