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Venters, Leonard among 18 Rays minor league free agents

A number of Rays minor leaguers are looking for work.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays-Workouts
If Jonny Venters was willing to try to come back from a fourth Tommy John surgery, I’d imagine he’s not done yet
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, the complete list of minor league free agents was posted by Baseball America. That list of 572 players includes 18 Rays.

Topping the list is major league veteran Jonny Venters. The left-handed reliever signed with the Rays in March of 2015 and then again in 2017 after undergoing another Tommy John surgery on his rehab assignment in 2016. He never pitched in the majors with Tampa Bay.

Another notable name is Durham third baseman Patrick Leonard, named the team’s MVP following the season. Acquired in the trade that sent James Shields to Kansas City in Dec. 2012, he played all four corner positions for the Bulls this season. The 25 year old had a .735 OPS.

Notably, this class of minor league free agents closes the book on much of the team’s 2011 draft. Former executive Andrew Friedman once called that draft some of the most important days in the team’s history, and ultimately, he was probably right.

Right-handed pitcher Jeff Ames, left-handed pitcher Grayson Garvin, infielder Jake Hager, and outfielder Granden Goetzman have all achieved minor league free agency after being selected by the Rays early in that draft. All but Garvin reached Triple A, but none reached the majors.

That leave Blake Snell and Jacob Faria as the last players standing with the team from that draft. Others, like Taylor Guerrieri, Mikie Mahtook, and Tyler Goeddel found work in other organizations, but for the Rays, the value they’re getting from that draft will come entirely from Snell and Faria moving forward.

The Rays also had extra picks in the 2010 draft, albeit it not as many. For the most part, they failed to capitalize on those too, with the exception of Derek Dietrich carving out a role with Miami. A pair of those picks, catcher Justin O’Conner and second baseman Ryan Brett, will be hitting minor league free agency.

O’Conner is a star behind the plate, but serious injuries and inconsistency at the plate made his trek to the majors a challenge. Brett did reach the majors, but his 2015 debut was cut short after three at-bats due to injury. He never played for the Rays again.

A couple players that saw time with Tampa Bay in 2017 are included — catcher Curt Casali and outfielder Cesar Puello. Both were outrighted off the roster following the season.

Also reaching minor league free agency are right-handed pitchers Hunter Adkins (Montgomery), Fernando Baez (Charlotte), Mike Broadway (Durham), Jairo Munoz (Charlotte), and Kyle Winkler (Montgomery), left-handed pitchers Logan Darnell (Montgomery) and Michael Roth (Durham), and catcher Michael McKenry (Durham).