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March 13, 2015

Transaction Analysis

Jonny Venters Rides the Highway

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

TAMPA BAY RAYS
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Signed LHP Jonny Venters to a two-year minor-league deal. [3/11]

The Rays resort to one of their patented tricks: signing a rehabbing pitcher to a multi-year deal. Under Andrew Friedman, the Rays employed it a handful of times, ranging from successes like Al Reyes and Juan Carlos Oviedo, to works-in-progress like Jordan Norberto and Neil Wagner, to misses like Ricky Orta. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, that's the risk; it's the piker's version of the Dodgers' portfolio approach to starting pitching.

With Venters, you'd be inclined to say it won't work. He last threw a pitch off a big-league mound in 2012, having since undergone two Tommy John surgeries (the second and third of his career). There's no telling whether he'll ever recover his mid-to-upper-90s sinker and/or his hard breaking ball, in part because there's no telling whether he'll ever make it back to the mound in the first place. The odds are very much against him, perhaps to the point where his return to the majors would be unprecedented.

Jason Isringhausen and Jose Rijo reportedly underwent three Tommy John surgeries. Yet Jon Roegele hasn't confirmed either pitcher's hat trick. Should both prove apocryphal, then Venters would stand to become the first pitcher to return to the majors following three Tommy Johns. Even if both are factual, Venters would become the first southpaw to accomplish the feat. It's not likely, but here's hoping.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Purchased the contact of OF-S Antoan Richardson from Triple-A Round Rock; placed LHP Martin Perez on the 60-day disabled list (Tommy John surgery). [3/11]

Typically minor-league journeymen are added to the 40-man roster in-season, when teams need them as emergency fill-ins. Richardson is the exception, however, because his contract included an early opt-out clause.

You might remember Richardson as the baserunner who scored on Derek Jeter's final hit at Yankee Stadium, or as the guy PECOTA once regarded as a better prospect than Justin Upton, Dexter Fowler, and Carlos Gomez. Whoops. Anyway, Richardson is a snack-size outfielder with a quality minor-league slash line that's unlikely to translate in the majors due to his lacking power. What will translate is Richardson's speed; he's among the fastest players in the game, and last season he succeeded on 31 of his 32 combined stolen-base attempts between Triple-A and the majors.

Of course Richardson's placement on the 40-man roster doesn't mean he'll crack Texas' Opening Day bench. Depending on your count, the Rangers have five or six other options for their reserve outfielder spot. Richardson's ability to play center and pinch-run could give him an advantage over the numerous lumbering, corner-only types (namely Kyle Blanks, Ryan Ludwick, and Nate Schierholtz), but the fact that he has options remaining could cost him the job due to roster machinations. Nonetheless, the Rangers like Richardson enough to keep him in camp, so he'll probably see the majors at some point.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Signed RHP/coach Peter Moylan to a two-year minor-league deal. [3/11]

Once a late-inning staple with the Braves, Moylan's body has betrayed him time and again the past few seasons. He missed all of 2014 following his second Tommy John surgery, and he hasn't appeared in more than 20 big-league games since 2010. Now faced with limited prospects as a 36-year-old, it was time for Moylan to consider what would come after his playing career ended. Either he though about it, or the Braves did the thinking for him, because this isn't the typical minor-league arrangement.

In addition to rehabbing and pitching with the Braves' Danville affiliate, Moylan will serve as a coach-in-training. If that's not enough, the contract also invites him to next spring's big-league camp, meaning he needn't rush back to maintain his comeback hopes. There's no guarantee Moylan's arm allows him to accept that invitation, obviously, and therein is the beauty of the deal: perhaps he likes coaching so much that, even if he can't continue as a pitcher, he attends camp as an instructor. Nice deal either way.

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

Related Content:  Atlanta Braves,  Tampa Bay Rays

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