Report: Cubs already talking potential trades involving Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel

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With 25 teams within five games of a playoff spot, the number of sellers before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline will likely be limited. The Cubs are one of the obvious ones and they are already talking about potential trades.

Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that the Cubs have had trade talks with multiple teams regarding Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Offers have already been made by two teams, with the Braves, Mariners, and Blue Jays among those who are the most interested. One major league source told Wittenmyer that he expects Hammel to end up in Seattle.

Samardzija has a 2.77 ERA over 14 starts this season and figures to be one of the top names available this summer. The 29-year-old right-hander is due to become a free agent after the 2015 season. Hammel won’t cost as much as Samardzija, but he should generate more interest since he won’t cost as much in a trade. Coming off a disappointing 2013, the 31-year-old owns a 2.81 ERA and 76/18 K/BB ratio in 83 1/3 innings over 13 starts this season. He’s owed a little over $3 million for the rest of the season and will be a free agent this winter.

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.