Mariners and Hisashi Iwakuma agree to contract extension

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UPDATE: Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that Iwakuma will get $14 million guaranteed. He’ll make $6.5 million in each of the next two seasons while there’s a $1 million buyout on a $7 million option for 2015.

11:29 PM: Hisashi Iwakuma was hours away from reaching free agency, but the Mariners swooped in at the last minute tonight and signed him to a two-year extension with a club option for 2015. Terms haven’t been disclosed.

As Larry Stone of the Seattle Times points out, there was a sense of urgency to get a deal done today. Per a stipulation in the one-year contract Iwakuma signed last offseason, if he re-signed with the Mariners after Saturday’s deadline, he would be ineligible to play for the club until May 15 of next year.

Iwakuma thrived after getting a chance in the Mariners’ rotation this July, going 9-4 with a 2.65 ERA and a 78/28 K/BB ratio over 95 innings. The 31-year-old right-hander will return to a rotation which is set to include Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas. Erasmo Ramirez and Blake Beavan are the likely frontrunners for the other two spots.

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.