Dontrelle Willis made his return to the majors yesterday, starting for the Reds against the Brewers. I like Willis as a person so much that it has pained me to see him struggle these past three years, so I could barely look at the box score last night I was so nervous. But actually: it was OK. Not great, but OK.
Willis got a no-decision when Francisco Cordero blew the save, but did pitch well enough to win. He allowed two runs on four hits. The key to his struggles have been his walks, however, and he did walk four batters in six innings. Struck out four too. I didn’t see him pitch so I can’t say whether he had anything or if, like his last few big league stints, his strikeouts were a function of guys getting to eager too smack his flat stuff, so if anyone watched the game, please chime in with your impressions.
Obviously, though, one game won’t tell us enough about his outing to give us a clear idea of how long he’ll stick or if he’s anywhere close to being the pitcher he once was. I want to be optimistic, even if the walks are troubling. For now, though, he doesn’t have to be spectacular. He need only be better than Edinson Volquez, and that ain’t too tough a trick at the moment.
Update (8:51 PM EST): The deal is in place, according to Heyman.
Update (8:27 PM EST): Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals made an “over-the-top offer” to Fowler to ensure he’d sign.
Frank Cusumano of KSDK Sports reports that free agent outfielder will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday. Presumably, that means that Fowler and the Cardinals have gotten pretty far along in negotiations.
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports recently reported that Fowler was looking for $18 million per year. The Blue Jays reportedly made an offer to Fowler in the four-year, $16 million range several days ago. The Cardinals’ offer to Fowler, if there is indeed one, is likely somewhere between the two figures.
Fowler, 30, is coming off of a fantastic year in which he helped the Cubs win their first World Series since 1908. During the regular season, he hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 home runs, 48 RBI, 84 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 551 plate appearances.
Fowler rejected the Cubs’ $17.2 million qualifying offer last month. While the QO compensation negatively affected Fowler’s experience in free agency last offseason — he didn’t sign until late February with the Cubs — his strong season is expected to make QO compensation much less of an issue.
Tommy Stokke of RanRag Sports reports that the Braves and Rangers agreed to a trade. According to ESPN’s Keith Law, the Braves will receive pitcher Luke Jackson from the Rangers in exchange for pitchers Tyrell Jenkins and Brady Feigl.
Jackson, 25, is under team control through 2022. He has logged only 18 innings in the majors, yielding 14 runs on 22 hits and eight walks with three strikeouts. While Jackson has struggled with control, the Braves likely see upside because his fastball sits in the mid- to high-90’s.
Jenkins, 24, is also under team control through 2022. The right-hander made eight starts and six relief appearances in his first major league season in 2016, putting up a 5.88 ERA with a 26/33 K/BB ratio over 52 innings.
Feigl, 25, was an undrafted free agent and was signed by the Braves in 2013. The lefty underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015 and briefly rehabbed in rookie ball this past season.