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Reportedly agreed to a five-year contract extension with RHP Yordano Ventura worth $23 million with two club options. [4/4]

A pre-arbitration extension that provides reason for a lot of excitement and some trepidation.

Ventura more than held his own as a 23-year-old rookie. He started 30 times, averaged more than six innings per pop, and posted a 125 ERA+ and 2.30 strikeout-to-walk rate. His stuff is high-quality, his makeup is enough for the Royals to entrust him with the Opening Day nod, and so on. If you're drafting pitchers for the next, say, seven seasons, he's not the first pick, but he's near the top.

Even so, Ventura's financial windfall is in line with other recent extensions, like those last year signed by Chris Archer (six years, $20 million) and Jose Quintana (five years, $21 million). Credit that to his limited earning potential. Ventura had less service time than Quintana, and wouldn't have qualified for arbitration until after the 2016 season. To state the obvious: the Royals wouldn't have been able to afford Ventura's first two free-agent years if they didn't act quickly, so they're trading him security for extra control. That is, of course, how these deals work.

And here's how the write-ups of these deals work: it's time for the obligatory paragraph fretting about what could go wrong with Ventura's arm. These worryings apply to all pitchers, but Ventura more so due to his size, tendency to recoil, and high (albeit effortless) velocity. There's a chance Ventura gets hurt, no doubt; there's also chance he doesn't get hurt until his next contract, or ever during his playing career. However it works out, the upside trumps the downside. —R.J. Anderson

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Claimed RHP Logan Verrett off waivers from the Orioles; placed OF-S Antoan Richardson on the 60-day disabled list (herniated disc surgery). [4/2]

Another Rule 5 pick changes hands. This time it's Verrett, the Mr. Irrelevant of the draft's big-league portion. Originally nabbed from the Mets, Verrett is all about pitchability. He hasn't walked more than two batters per nine during a professional season because he floods the strike zone with a rudimentary four-pitch set, including a low-90s fastball and solid slider. The expectation is that Verrett will shift to the bullpen, likely as a swingman in the near term, though he could fill a middle-relief role in time. The Rangers' bullpen includes a lot of unproven young arms, so Verrett should fit in. —R.J. Anderson

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Released OF-R Cody Ross. [4/4]
Acquired OF-R Josh Elander from the Braves in exchange for RHP Trevor Cahill and cash considerations. [4/2]

Regardless of how you feel about Dave Stewart's work thus far, give him this much: he's not letting contract status construct his roster for him. Whether it's shipping out Cahill, demoting Yasmani Tomas, promoting Archie Bradley, benching Aaron Hill, or releasing Ross, Stewart is willing to make the bold move if he feels it's the correct move. In this case, that approach rids the D'backs of Ross and Cahill at the cost of $16 million. Ouch. That's okay, though, because Stewart has enough depth in the outfield and rotation to justify the moves.

Ross, for his part, could land another gig if he proves healthy. Sadly, that's not a given, as he's missed more than 60 games in each of the past two seasons due to various leg and hip injuries. At 34 years old, it's unclear how much gas Ross has left in the tank, or if his body will allow him to use it. —R.J. Anderson

When Elander has been healthy, he's shown the potential to be a quality bat, with a solid-average hit tool and above-average pop from the right-side. Unfortunately, he hasn't been healthy very often, as he played in just 208 games during his three seasons in the Atlanta organization. He's also still a work in progress defensively, and won't provide a ton of value on the bases. If he can stay healthy he's potentially a lefty-killer off the bench, but expecting much more than that from a 24-year-old who hasn't reached Double-A is probably a fool's errand. —Christopher Crawford

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Acquired RHP Trevor Cahill and cash considerations from the Diamondbacks in exchange for OF-R Josh Elander; released LHP Wandy Rodriguez. [4/2]

Could it be Aaron Harang 2.0? Probably not.

Cahill, who at 27 will be the second-oldest starter on the Braves staff, is coming off a hectic season. He spent time in the bullpen, was designated for assignment and passed through waivers en route to the minors, and finished with a career-worst ERA. You can understand why Dave Stewart ate $6.5 million of Cahill's $12 million salary in order to clear a spot on the roster for someone else, just as you can understand why the Braves prefer gambling on Cahill's stuff and track record versus placing Wandy Rodriguez and Eric Stults in the Opening Day rotation.

Here's how Atlanta talked about Cahill: "He's still young and has good stuff. We saw him four different times this spring. We think there should be some regression to the mean, based on what he has done in the past," said assistant GM John Coppolella. Fair enough, though what the Braves saw those four times was a different Cahill than last season—and not in the sense that everyone is different from who they were six-plus months ago. Rather, Cahill has altered his mechanics by raising his arm slot, foregoing run on his sinker in favor of downward plane. (Hat tip to David Lee for the link.)

Whether the arm-slot change works for Cahill when the regular season begins is anyone's guess. The Braves seem to believe Cahill can give them something—even if it's just more upside than your garden variety junkballer. Should Cahill do the unthinkable and pull a Harang—that is, put in a quality season—the Braves would have an interesting dilemma on their hands. Cahill has multiple club options remaining, albeit at market-value costs that, in theory, could make him attractive to some team—including, presumably, the Braves.

But first let's see if Cahill can make it through this April without a demotion to the bullpen before talking about any team paying him eight figures next season. —R.J. Anderson

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Claimed OF-R Gary Brown off waivers from the Giants. [4/3]

"Former top prospect" is attached to Brown's name like a prefix. His prospect status had diminished by last September, when he debuted in the majors, and it's time to get realistic about what he is now that the bad teams in the league passed on adding him to their rosters. The truth is, Brown can help in a certain role. He's very fast—fittingly, his first big-league hit came on a bunt—and he plays a mean outfield. Brown isn't going to hit or walk much, and his struggles with stolen-base efficiency leave him with a success rate that understates his plus-plus speed. Add it all up (and presuming the Cardinals don't work some miracle), and Brown's upside is that of a speed-and-D reserve outfielder. Given the opportunity cost, it's worth a shot. —R.J. Anderson

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