Willis Signs One-Year Pact with Phillies

Posted by Pat Gallen, Thu, December 15, 2011 04:38 PM | Comments: 59
Analysis, News

UPDATE, Thursday, 4:40 pm: Willis officially signed a one-year deal after passing his physical today. According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, there is a $25,000 bonus for 30 plate appearances made by Willis. There’s a good chance that happens, too. Willis is a career .244 hitter and last year in 31 at-bats, had an OPS of 1.032. You certainly could do worse if you needed a pinch-hitter to jump in at some point.


(Originally posted Tuesday, 10:38 am)

Former Marlins, Reds, Diamondbacks and Tigers pitcher Dontrelle Willis has signed a one-year deal with the Phillies today, pending a physical. According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com it is worth up to $1 million with incentives.

Willis has been well traveled, but held lefties to a .127 average last season with Cincinnati. Clearly, he is not the same pitcher that took MLB by storm several years ago – and is probably no longer starting material for this league – but can be a serviceable lefty reliever.

Willis was the 2003 NL Rookie of the Year, and in 2005, he finished second behind Chris Carpenter in the NL Cy Young voting, going 22-10 with a 2.63 ERA.

He no longer throws heat like he used to, but in situational spots, he could be a prime piece out of the bullpen. This is a low-risk, high-reward move by the Phillies. That is, as long as they don’t try to use him as a starter at any point. He can also help as a possible pinch-hitter at times.

Good move by Ruben Amaro Jr. here.

Avatar of Pat Gallen

About Pat Gallen

Pat Gallen has written 1667 articles on Phillies Nation.

Pat is Editor-in-Chief of Phillies Nation. He also covers the Phils for 97.5 FM in Philly.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    definition of Low-Risk/ High Reward …. gotta love this deal

    can’t wait to read about why other people hate it though

  • Posts: 0 phil

    I can’t wait to get my dtrain shersey! I have always liked him and always hoped he would bounce back. This move is fantastic on so many levels. Low risk high reward with the option to make him a loogey and a bat off the bench. He is also good friends with jroll which will help on that front

  • Posts: 0 TheDipsy

    This……..is a great sign. Lefty specialist.

    The Dipsy

    And can hit!

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    This one makes some sense. Could potentially pay out decently. They need some depth for the 4th and 5th slots. Worley should be the 4, but it would be nice to give him some competition and depth behind him.

    Re: Spillbourghs – why? He’s no different than Francisco, and you already have someone like Nix in there anyway.

  • Posts: 0 NJ

    Very much doubt Willis signed to be a situational reliever. It’s a surprising move because you’d think he’d be gunning for a guaranteed rotation spot somewhere, but winning (and being with your best bud) could be big for him.

    I think he’d look at the personalities and success of Doc, Lee, Pap and Cole and feel like he can let loose and enjoy what is a very unique clubhouse and let that filter through to the mound.

    • Posts: 0 Jeff Dowder

      It has to be situational…he hasn’t had success against righthanded batters in years. There’s been an anxiety issue from time to time in the past as well, but it’s only $1 million.

      • Posts: 0 NJ

        anxiety issues go more towards the case he’s signed to compete for a rotation spot, he has no history as a reliever, odd appearances as a reliever have not ended well for him and he has a history of clawing his way back to start in Detroit, Arizona, SF and Cincy, none converted him to a reliever.

        There are too many veteran lefties gettable at costs looking for a job for this to be a move to bolster the bullpen

      • Posts: 0 Jeff Dowder

        You’re saying he’s had success as a starter the past four seasons? His ERA over that span has been close to 6.00. He’s only shown the ability to get lefthanded batters out, which is why he’ll be in the bullpen.

  • Posts: 0 Mazinman

    Love this move. Love it even more if it pushes Rollins to hurry up and resign since they are friends.

  • Posts: 0 TheDipsy

    NJ – Willis has NO chance of starting here and knows it. He’s a loogy, and maybe a little more.

    The Dipsy

    • Posts: 0 NJ

      Willis has a chance of starting he and he does know it, granted less than other teams but look at what he’s been doing the past couple of years, he’s been starting.

      He started all 13 games he pitched in last year, 13 starts in 2010 and 2 relief appearances where he gave up 5 runs in 2 innings, all 7 appearances in 2009 we’re starts. Every time he gets called to the majors it’s to start fill a rotation spot.

      I’m not saying he will win a rotation spot but the Phils are going to give him a shot. This is high risk/high reward for him to because if he doesn’t make the rotation he’ll have no role, it’s not like he’s done a Kerry Wood as redefined himself. Mike Gonzalez, Sherrill, Tallet, Marte, Grabow all unsigned, Phillies possibly needing the shed payroll, there’s more chance Willis and not Blanton rounding out the rotation than Willis on the major league roster as a reliever.

      This signing says more about re-signing Rollins than it does Willis.

      • Posts: 1189 Manny

        Avatar of Manny

        I disagree. I think it’ll be more like when we initially signed Contreras. The team will claim that they wanna give him a shot for a starting spot, as we did in Spring Training with Contreras… and then shift him to a bullpen role (barring injuries to our starters). It also happened with Chan Ho, though it did take a longer time for him to get shipped to the pen.

        In any case, both Contreras and Chan Ho really excelled as guys who were probably promised a starting role but ended up in the pen. Hopefully Willis will become the loogy that we so desperately need.

      • Posts: 1135 EricL

        Avatar of EricL

        Just about everything in this post is wrong.

        Willis will not be a starter. If they were thinking that way he would be the 7th starter on this team, behind Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Blanton, Worley and Kendrick. You don’t pay 7th starters a million dollars a year, you pay them $40k because you spot start a AAA pitcher in those situations.

        He has been signed to be a LH relief pitcher, and at $1 million he’s about $3 million cheaper than all of those guys you mentioned, with the exception of Sherrill who last year only made 20% more than Willis will make this, and that was only because he was coming off a horrendous 2010.

        Also, the Phillies do not need to shed payroll.

        Also also, this signing says nothing about Rollins.

  • Posts: 0 Ryan H

    meh. he won’t even be on the team come june. he’s completely shot. nothing left

    • Posts: 1135 EricL

      Avatar of EricL

      Actually, he’s very good against left-handed batters, and that’s a valuable tool out of the bullpen.

    • Posts: 2068 Brooks

      Avatar of Brooks

      I’m with you on this one Ryan – garbage. Dontrelle had his day when he fooled batters by his awkwierd delivery – long gone.
      There is nothing there and I hope the fuse is short for Cholly.

  • Posts: 2952 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    Well, Don, it only took 8 comments for the hating of this deal to surface on here.

    Ryan….what is it that makes you say that he’s got nothing left and that he’s shot?? And if he is….then what are the Phillies really out?? That’s why this is LOW RISK/HIGH REWARD.

    Kudos to Ruben.

  • Posts: 7 Groty

    Avatar of Groty

    Emergency bench bat to boot! LOL!

  • Posts: 0 NJ

    Manny both Contreras and Chan Ho had had success as relievers and we’re very much in the twlight of their careers.

    You look at Dontrelle’s past and the current market and everything says this guy isn’t being signed to relieve for $1m plus incentives.

  • Posts: 0 NJ

    Jeff look at the way he’s been used since being demoted by Detroit, he’s had I believe it’s 3 relief appearances and given up something like 6 runs in those appearances.

    Detroit tried to bring him back as a starter, Arizona tried, SF tried and failed didn’t call him up even as a reliever and Cincy brought him back to the majors as a starter. He clearly wasn’t ‘great’ as a starter last year and Cincy still didn’t move him to the bullpen. Either teams don’t want him relieving or he doesn’t want to relieve.

    The Phils could have a half dozen veteran lefties on a minor league deal so why would we sign Willis for $1m when Bastardo is the primary lefty and we’ve been looking to add a veteran specialist?

    • Posts: 1135 EricL

      Avatar of EricL

      Rightly or wrongly, the Phillies are using Bastardo as their 8th inning setup guy, so there’s still a need for a LOOGY in situations the 6th or 7th inning [of games started by Worley and Blanton].

      Willis is relatively cheap, and a veteran who excels at getting LH batters out and preforms poorly against RH batters. Further, Jose Contreras’ first full season as a reliever was with the Phillies, as he had been a starter until that point, so there’s a precedent for this kind of a move.

      • Posts: 0 Chris

        But but Jose Contreras was so much older in that season. Younger players are incapable of making the role switch with only an offseason’s notice. Cmon Eric this is common knowledge.

      • Posts: 0 George

        Hogwash, Chris. I can name several who were young when switched to bullpen duty. There were: Eric Gagne, Bret Myers (although he was returned to starting the following year), Tug McGraw, and even John Smoltz and Kerry Wood were not exactly over the hill when they became successful relievers. Then there are those, such as Savery, who are moved to the pen in the minors. Maybe some had more than one off-season to figure it out, but most didn’t, and some actually have made the switch in the middle of the year.

      • Posts: 1135 EricL

        Avatar of EricL

        lol, George, I’m pretty sure Chris is being facetious here, and actually agreeing with the notion.

        Sometimes internet sarcasm is hard to pick up, so no biggie.

      • Posts: 0 George

        Internet sarcasm is especially hard to pick up on a site where some people actually propose ridiculous ideas seriously or have the writing skills of second graders.

        I suppose I’ll have to remember the names of everyone, and everything they say in the course of a year. That way I might be better prepared to realize the difference between those who are sarcastic and those who are just morons. However, I’m really senile these days, and don’t think I’ll manage it. (My cranky attitude won’t help, either!)

  • Posts: 4542 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    If Willis was on the Phillies last season, he would have had the best BA/OBP/SLG on the team. It’s funny how small sample sizes jump off the page at you sometimes.

    So they tendered Kendrick and Valdez, I guess Mini Mart should start looking for a new home somewhere in the Lehigh Valley area. He’s a good kid, he gave it his best. I bet many of us would like to be able to say we had a taste of the Majors for one year, I know I would.

    • Posts: 576 Brian Sr. of CO

      Avatar of Brian Sr. of CO

      100% agreed on Mini Mart. Not much of a fan having him aroung yet, may develop into an acceptable type of player, not much more than acceptable. Regardless, what I would do to get the taste of the Majors for one year, and play a game with a minimum salary north of $400k a year. HELL YES I would take that!

  • Posts: 516 Bruce

    Avatar of Bruce

    I like this move by Amaro. Low risk and potential high value. I have seen him pitched this past season and he still can get hitters out when he can locate his pitches. Plus his energy and his enthusiam for the game is a hugh plus. I can picture him as a second lefty out of the bullpen in key situations AND long relief. He can be in the same role as Kendrick.

    • Posts: 0 NJ

      That means a bullpen of Papelbon, Contreras, Stutes, Bastardo and then Herndon, Kendrick and Willis… The Phils couldn’t not survive another season with Charlie using his arms like he did last year shortening the pen so much in close games so sense says their going to try and add one or two experienced arms that could be used in close games and Willis would stick out like a sore thumb.

      Long relief is a rare thing on a winning team, you don’t need a 6th starter/guy pitching bunches of multiple innings. The majority of Kendricks appearances were in middle relief or starting last year and he’ll no doubt continue that role next year. Bastardo is the go-to lefty, Willis would just sit there for days at a time in a role he’s never experienced and your not signing a guy labelled a head case to sit there waiting to pitch and out or throw a couple of innings that have Kendricks name them.

      If we need an experienced bullpen arm that can pitch late in a game, have been rumoured to be going after an experience complimentary lefty to Bastardo like Sherrill, then why is everyone saying Willis is a situational lefty or long-men when all he’s done the last 3 years is pitch as a starter???

      • Posts: 0 Chris

        Dontrelle Willis is lucky to have a job at all. He’ll do what he’s told. The reason why he’s sucked as a starter is because he can’t pitch to righties. Now are you going to let the guy continue to pitch to righties as a starter or long man or are you going to use him as a lefty specialist? Hmm a smart team would say use him as a lefty specialist. This is exactly what RAJ has in mind. It doesn’t matter that he’s only been a starter. He’ll learn how to prep to be a reliever this year.

        People can change their roles. Starters are made into relievers all the time and relievers are made into starters.

  • Posts: 0 NJ

    Chris why would the Phils sign Willis with the sole purpose of making him a lefty specialist with him having had no proper experience in relief and giving up runs the few times he’s relieved, with a spot in the rotation becoming vacant with Oswalt’s departure (don’t be so sure Blanton will be back with the luxury tax situation), a history of losing his nerve on the mound and a handful of veteran lefty specialist available on the market?

    Someone else would have tried to make him a lefty specialist by now if that was going to happen, not a contender that is in need of experienced relievers to pitch late in games and a handful of young relievers in the wings.

    This is so obviously a gesture to J-Roll to get his contract done, why would you sign Willis for $1m if you could get one of a handful of experienced left handed relievers for half that??

    • Posts: 0 Chris

      Why do the Phillies turn any failed starting pitchers into relievers? Don’t know why this is so unbelievable. They even said he was going to be in the bullpen. If Kendrick is also in the bullpen as the long man that means Willis is the lefty specialist. What experienced left handed relievers that are good can you get for less than a million in free agency. Let me answer that for you….ZERO.

      Also what are they going to do with Blanton. He’s not movable. The only way they could move him is if they ate all his salary and then what is the point. The Phillies are just fine in regards to the luxury tax. They have plenty of room for Rollins and they’re basically done after that. There aren’t going to be any other big signings.

    • Posts: 0 George

      Half of what Willis signed for would be about the major league minimum. Good luck finding “experience” at that price.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Im failing to see how Dontrelle Willis for $1 million has any impact at all on Jimmy Rollins ???

    The Phillies just took a chance on a guy that -not that long ago- was unhittable at times … for $1 M you sign that type of talent and see what happens … maybe he has control issues in the spring and they let him walk, maybe he Ks every single Lefty he faces in the spring and he gets a key bullpen role … maybe he gets his command back, and gets stretched out enough that he will challenege for the 5th starter spot ….

    there are too many unknowns, except that signing a player of his talent level to a $1 M contract is a great idea for a team that doesn’t need to worry about $1 M

    • Posts: 576 Brian Sr. of CO

      Avatar of Brian Sr. of CO

      Many people believe that because Willis and JRoll are supposedly good friends, JRoll will re-sign to be on the team with his friend. Not so sure that will affect JRoll’s decision at all. He is looking for Money and years. Could be wrong, but I doubt that will affect his decision.

  • Posts: 0 Ryan H

    how can anybody say this is potential “high reward”. this guy hasn’t done anything remotely ok in 5 years. he’s got as much potential right now as Barry Zito does. they both were once good, and now they both absolutely stink. and have proven it year in year out. if you’re excited to see the d train back in action, then you’re most likely going to have to drive up to lehigh valley. because thats where he’ll be pitching

    • Posts: 576 Brian Sr. of CO

      Avatar of Brian Sr. of CO

      Do you know what Low Risk/High Reward means at all? I am not sure what is so difficult to get about that. If he pitches like he did a few years back, great, thats a high reward because he was once pretty good. If he doesn’t, oh well, to the Phillies $1Mill is not that big of a deal for a 1 year contract.

    • Posts: 0 Don M

      for his career he’s got very good numbers against Lefties – which is why many are pegging him here to be a “lefty specialist” out of the bullpen …. a guy with a chance to give you more than what Joe Savery might give you – and at $1 M …. cheaper than what most other veteran LHP would cost you

      since he’s signed so cheaply -its low risk …. if he’s not good, you cut him, and don’t lose much …. but a guy with his talent (you don’t go from a stud pitcher to a head-case overnight do you? … Rick Ankiel, and a few other exceptions) .. but maybe they’re hoping he can find whatever he’s missing – or that just for one milliuon dollars, he’s somebody that could help the team = high reward ..

  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    Great signing. He’ll get a shot to start, but there’s no room so he ends up in the Pen. If Contreras is healthy you have a nice R/L compliment to Bastardo/Stutes so they shouldn’t have to pitch as much. Check out Will’s line against Lefties albeit as a starter:

    .127 average, .169 OBP, .200 Slugg, 10.00 K/BB 2011
    .200 average, .274 OBP, .288 slugg career.

    Definately worth a mil

  • Posts: 0 bacardipr05

    Surprised but not surprise i knew and was waiting for RAJ to sign one of these low risk high potential candidates. Let’s see if it works out, I much preferred if they went after Sherril. Raj has this thing he thinks Dubee can turn around every has been or any pitcher that might of shown a inkling of potential. The good thing here is that RAJ didnt do the 1 year too long deal if the deal doesnt work out. These are the type of moves that usually either make RAJ look like a genius” if” it works out. I doubt he will be or have a chance as a starter here. This is not to say he wont start a few games. I sure hope RAJ didnt give up on Kendrick for Dontrelle though.

    • Posts: 0 George

      Sherrill would have been way more expensive after a reasonably successful 2011.

      Also, this might be silly, but if a 1 year/$under $1 million contract doesn’t work beyond spring training, isn’t that one year too long, too?

      If RAJ had given up on Kendrick, he would have non-tendered him. Willis is not his replacement.

  • Posts: 2952 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    Seriously. What is $1M to the Philadelphia Phillies when they are taking a chance on a fromer CY YOUNG winner?? If he does anything remotely close to what Scott Eyre did when he was here it will be some of the best money that Ruben could have spent all year. And if he bombs then so what. …. it’s only $1M. Wake up, people!

  • Avatar of The Original Chuck P

    Why not? Bring him in as a 6th/7th inning lefty specialist and see what he’s got. Maybe he finds a little extra zip playing with the Phils… maybe he stops thinking and gets back to just throwing. I’m excited… who knows but if he doesn’t pan out, it doesn’t kill us.

  • Posts: 0 davehist

    Willis was very impressive when he first came up. If he’s got anything left (even just against lefties) he could be a major steal for Ruben Amaro and the Phillies.

  • Posts: 0 Billy Bob


    • Posts: 0 John

      The Braves winning it all in 2021 is certainly possible, though I wouldn’t make predictions for something that far off.

      As for next year, let’s see how the Braves recover from a collapse worse than the Phold.

    • Posts: 0 George

      “DIS” doesn’t fit at all with “Billy Bob.” “DIS,” and the fact that you yelled it says New York. “Billy Bob” says Hillbilly.

      So which is it, Brooklyn bozo, or inbred hick?

  • Posts: 0 Brian O.

    This guy is one of the fun guys to watch who really has fun playing the game. I look forward to seeing him get out there and fool a few guys, maybe for a few months, and if someone gets hurt, and Willis is effective, he could really be the steal of the winter.

    • Posts: 2068 Brooks

      Avatar of Brooks

      You could win the lottery too Brian but what are the odds of that happening?

      • Posts: 0 George

        Unfortunately, the odds of Brian winning the lottery are probably better than the odds of you being struck by lightning. Even though it’d be nice for him to become a millionaire, it would be even nicer not to have to deal with your negativity.

  • Posts: 4542 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    I’d rather see Brooks win the lottery ( and share with me! )

    Willis seems like a really cool guy that will be a perfect fit in the clubhouse.

    Talking about Jimmy-
    “I’m trying to press Ruben to get that deal done so I can borrow some money from him.”

    And about being a reliever-
    “Me and Ruben talked, and the situation, just in case — the ability to start — that if a couple of starters go down, I could be a starter,” he said. “But I really don’t care. Wherever they need me, whatever role, I heard someone talking about pinch-hitting, so whatever role. With all of these starters going nine and 10 innings, I’m not sure I’ll get the chance to do that. But I just want to get into the best shape I can be and I feel great. I’m not going to rock the boat; I just want to get on.”

  • Posts: 0 Lee

    I hope he brings his bat with him… we need it!!!

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Gotta love that quote by Whatchu talkin bout Willis… I’ve always been a fan, he looks like he has fun out there and that might be a great thing to show the young relievers in the pen

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