Dodgers hope to discuss extension with Hanley Ramirez this offseason

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While Yasiel Puig and the Dodgers’ pitching staff deserve a lot of credit for the team’s incredible turnaround, Hanley Ramirez has been the team’s best hitter when healthy this season, batting .348 with 13 home runs and a 1.025 OPS through 63 games. And the Dodgers are prepared to reward him.

According to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, Dodgers owner Mark Walter said last night that he is “absolutely” interesting in talking to Ramirez this winter about a contract extension. The 29-year-old is under contract for $14 million next season, after which he can become a free agent.

“I think a guy like Hanley Ramirez, he’s a special, special player,” Walter said. “If you know where we could find five more, we’ll take them all. I don’t think there are five more.”

For his part, Ramirez said he’s “definitely” interested in talking about an extension with the Dodgers and wants to “to stay here forever.”

Clayton Kershaw is also set to become a free agent following the 2014 season, but if there’s any team who could be willing to afford to keep both players, it’s the Dodgers. The deep-pocketed club already has $122 million committed to seven players (Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, Zack Greinke, Andre Ethier, Yasiel Puig, and Hyun-Jin Ryu) for 2017.

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.