According to sources, Dontrelle Willis has signed a one-year deal with the Phillies. The D-Train lost his star status long ago and has fallen from the ranks of promising to the depths of rebuilding. His last hope is to rebuild his career, to recover what he can in the time he has left in the league. And he could have done all that with the Padres.
Why would the Padres want Dontrelle Willis? Two reasons. He would benefit greatly from pitching in the career-rejuvenating Petco Park, and the Padres need bullpen/starting pitching help. Willis would be a nice fit as a long-reliever coming out of the bullpen. He could step in for spot starts without having to call someone up from Triple-A. And at only $1 million for the year, the Padres could have had him cheap.
Willis hasn’t pitched over 100 innings since 2007, but teams insist on signing him as a starting pitcher. Willis is better suited for the bullpen at this point. He walks too many batters and strikes out too few to be successful as a starter right now. Coming out of the bullpen, Willis could work on his form, allow the Petco Park dimensions to help him keep the ball in the ballpark, and regain his confidence. I’m not suggesting that Willis will ever be the dominating force he was from 2003-2005, but he can regain the confidence to at least jump start his career.
Had the Padres pursued Willis, they could have had a veteran lefty coming out of the pen. They need this if Joe Thatcher does not return. The team offered Thatcher a contract, but there has been no word on whether he will agree to it. Willis could been a situational guy if the Padres didn’t want to use him as a long-reliever. He could have been brought in for those lefty/lefty match-ups. Last season, Willis held left-handed batters to just a .127 average. He could have been an asset. Instead, he signed with the Phillies.
ESPN is reporting Willis signed a one-year deal with the Phillis worth about $1 million. The Philies almost surely will stick him in the bullpen. Even without Roy Oswalt, Willis doesn’t figure to crack the starting rotation. It’s a smart move. But for Willis, it’s a move that probably would have better worked out in Petco Park. Citizen’s Bank Park gives up runs far easier than Petco.