UPDATE: The Diamondbacks have confirmed their interest in Willis, according to Gilbert.
“We are at least considering him,” D-backs general manager Josh Byrnes
8:55 PM: According to Steve Gilbert of MLB.com, the Diamondbacks have had discussions with the Tigers about acquiring Dontrelle Willis.
Willis, 28, was designated for assignment by the Tigers on Sunday after posting a 4.98 ERA, 1.78 WHIP and a 33/29 K/BB ratio over his first nine appearances (eight starts) this season. The enigmatic left-hander was just 2-8 with a 6.86 ERA during his disappointing tenure in Detroit, averaging a disturbing 8.2 BB/9 over 101 innings.
According to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, Willis’ agent Matt Sosnick said that Arizona is one of the places his client “would rather play.” In fact, Willis and his wife were already in the process of buying a home in the Phoenix area. More broadly, Sosnick said “Out West in the National League would be his
choice.” He’s not the first pitcher to look out west for revitalization.
The Tigers have a little over a week to work something out, but whether they decide to release him, trade him or put him on waivers, they’ll be responsible for virtually all of his $12 million contract for this season.
As for the Diamondbacks, they have apparently seen enough of Billy Buckner that they feel it’s worth sending a marginal prospect the Tigers’ way to try to catch lightning in a bottle here. I don’t have much optimism that he can turn things around in the desert, but maybe his bat (eight career home runs) can keep them in a few games.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.