Fireballing starter Yordano Ventura and the Kansas City Royals are deep into discussions on a five-year contract extension with a club option for a sixth season that would guarantee him more than $20 million, sources with knowledge of the talks told Yahoo Sports.
Ventura, 23, thrived in his first full season last year, flummoxing hitters with a fastball that regularly reached 100 mph and peaking with seven shutout innings in Game 6 of the World Series.
Should they lock up Ventura, the Royals would be betting on his health despite a slight 6-foot frame and the incredible sort of fastball velocity that often portends arm issues. Twice last year Ventura experienced injury scares, first with discomfort on the outside of his elbow – the ulnar collateral ligament resides on the inside – and again in the postseason with soreness in his right shoulder.
Neither stopped Ventura from posting 183 regular-season innings of 3.20 ERA ball and following with 25 1/3 more postseason innings at the same ERA. Among the fastball that averaged 97 mph – higher than any starter since PITCHf/x started recording velocity, and more than likely the biggest number ever – and a curveball and changeup that grew stronger as the season waned, Ventura possesses among the deadliest three-pitch mixes in the game.
His ascent was a victory for Kansas City’s player-development department, which signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 2008 for just $28,000, peanuts compared to the multi-million-dollar bonuses regularly given to the highest-rated Latin American teenagers. Ventura’s deal would be similar to that of Atlanta starter Julio Teheran, who signed last spring with the same amount of service time for $32.4 million over six years plus a club option.
The Royals would add Ventura to a handful of under-market long-term contracts, including that of catcher Salvador Perez, whose deal may warrant renegotiation in the near future. While the Royals face no immediate budget concerns despite a 2015 payroll expected to shatter the franchise record at more than $110 million, the impending free agency of Alex Gordon and expected arbitration raises for first baseman Eric Hosmer, closer Greg Holland, center fielder Lorenzo Cain and starter Danny Duffy portend difficult decisions for a franchise with finite financial leeway.
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