It has been confirmed by Matt Gelb that Dontrelle Willis has signed a one-year deal with the Phillies.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick first reported that the Philadelphia were close to a one-year, $1 million-plus deal (including incentives) with the left-hander pending a physical. Willis will be 30 in January.
The speculation started last night when Shane Victorino tweeted to Willis, “welcome to town homie.”
Willis is by far the most interesting signing of the off season. He could easily be a very effective LOOGY specialist, but that’s a role that Willis has never taken up before in his nine-year career.
The former Rookie of the Year made 13 appearances last season, all of them as a starter. And in 205 career games, 202 of them are starts.
Granted Willis posted a 5.00 ERA in 75 2/3 innings pitched last season with Cincinatti, it’s his splits against the left-handed hitting crowd that impressed the Phillies the most.
What makes Willis an attractive option at LOOGY are his career numbers against lefties. They are pretty good, holding them to a .200/.274/.288 slash line. Last season, those numbers were even more lights out: .127 batting average with a .369 OPS against with a 20-2 K/BB ratio.
Gelb also pointed out Willis’ other positive trait that Charlie Manuel certainly has to love: his hitting abilities. Last season, Willis hit .387 in 31 at-bats. He’s a career .244 hitter with nine homers.
An indirect and almost immediate impact Willis could make on the Phillies is his relationship with a certain free agent short stop.
Both Willis and Jimmy Rollins grew up together and remained very close friends. The two have never played together in the majors and this would give them both the best opportunity to do so.
This leaves the Phillies with only two open bull pen spots for next season if Jose Contreras is healthy. Michael Stutes, Justin de Fratus and David Herndon could lead a large group of relievers that would be vying for those two spots.