Blue Jays, Yankees sign top international prospects

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July 2 is signing day for 16-year-old internationals, and the Blue Jays and Yankees have added two of the best, according to Baseball America.

Already having signed today are eight members of Baseball America’s top 20 international prospects. The Blue Jays inked No. 1 and No. 9, signing Franklin Barrero and Luis Castro out of Venezuela.

Barreto and Castro are both shortstops at the moment, though most think Barreto will end up elsewhere. Baseball America compares Barreto to “Rafael Furcal with less defense to a Shane Victorino type in center field.”

The Yankees signed BA’s No. 2 prospect, catcher Luis Torrens out of Venezuela. According to BA, he just became a catcher in February after converting from the infield. The Yankees already possess one of the game’s top catching prospects in Gary Sanchez, who was a $3 million signing out of the Dominican Republic three years ago.

The Giants, Mets, Twins, Red Sox and Phillies have also landed prospects on BA’s top 20 today. With the new CBA holding down bonuses (teams only have $2.9 million to spend on international players), the highest reported figure for a signing so far is shortstop Amed Rosario to the Mets for $1.75 million.

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.