Cubs finalize $60 million extension with Starlin Castro

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Making official what was first reported two weeks ago, the Cubs have finalized a seven-year, $60 million contract extension with shortstop Starlin Castro that includes a team option for 2020.

Castro is making the minimum salary this season and would have been arbitration eligible for the first time next year. And as a “Super Two” player he would have had four total seasons of arbitration eligibility before reaching free agency.

All of which means the seven-year extension covers all four arbitration seasons and his first three free agent seasons while giving the Cubs a $16 million option or $1 million buyout on his fourth free agent year. Carrie Muskat of MLB.com has the year-by-year breakdown:

Signing bonus: $6 million
2013: $5 million
2014: $5 million
2015: $6 million
2016: $7 million
2017: $9 million
2018: $10 million
2019: $11 million
2020: $16 million option or $1 million buyout

Compared to his rookie and sophomore campaigns Castro has taken a step backward this season, hitting .276 with a .729 OPS, but he’s already reached a career-high with 12 homers in 127 games and at age 22 there’s still plenty of room for further development.

Castro already has 1,761 career plate appearances with a month to go in his age-22 season. In the history of baseball the only shortstops with more plate appearances through age 22 are Robin Yount, Edgar Renteria, Alex Rodriguez, Elvis Andrus, Arky Vaughan, and Travis Jackson. If he turns out to be as good as the worst player on that list the Cubs will have gotten a bargain in Castro’s extension, which covers the rest of his twenties.

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.