Report: Cubs and Starlin Castro agree to seven-year, $60 million extension

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UPDATE: David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com hears that the deal is very close, but isn’t finalized yet.

3:22 PM: We’ve heard reports over the past couple of days that the Cubs and Starlin Castro were close to agreeing on a long-term contract extension. The deal is now in place.

According to Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com, the Cubs and Castro have agreed to a seven-year, $60 million extension with a $16 million club option for 2020.

Castro was projected to qualify for arbitration this winter as a Super Two player, so the deal covers all four years of arbitration eligibility and three years of free agency. He will be signed through his age-29 season.

Castro, 22, entered play this afternoon with a .297/.333/.422 batting line over his first three seasons in the big leagues. He continues to have his share of mental errors and his plate discipline, fielding and baserunning all have room for improvement, but Theo Epstein and company have sent a clear message that they consider their young shortstop an important building block.

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.