UPDATE: Willis passed his physical exam, so the deal is now official.
Last month Dontrelle Willis was said to be drawing a decent amount of interest as a free agent and sure enough it sounds like he’s managed to get a big-league deal for guaranteed money.
Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports that Willis is close to a one-year, $1 million contract with Philadelphia, where he’d presumably be used out of the bullpen as a situational left-hander (and pinch-hitter).
Willis wasn’t exactly impressive for the Reds in 2011, throwing 76 innings with a 5.00 ERA and 57/37 K/BB ratio in 13 starts, and he hasn’t had an ERA under 5.00 since way back in 2006. Since then he’s logged a total of 404 innings with a 5.65 ERA, walking nearly as many (243) as he struck out (285).
On the other hand, Willis has always done a solid job shutting down lefties and has yet to be given an opportunity to make it as a full-time reliever, with 202 of his 205 career appearances being starts. Based on merit and track record Willis deserved only a minor-league deal, but clearly the Phillies are still believers in the 30-year-old former Rookie of the Year.
The Dodgers have signed lefty Rich Hill to a three-year, $48 million contract.The deal was reported to be imminent over the weekend, but was finalized today following Hill’s physical.
Hill missed a good deal of time in 2016 with blister issues — and he’ll be 37-years-old on Opening Day — but when he was healthy he was fantastic, posting the best season in his 12-year career. He had a a 2.12 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 110.1 innings between the Athletics and Dodgers.
Along with a healthy Clayton Kershaw a maturing Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda, the Dodgers rotation looks to be a strength in 2017.
UPDATE: Buster Olney reports that a deal is in place pending a physical. The financial terms are not yet known. UPDATE: Joel Sherman of the New York Post hears it’s in the four-year, $62 million range. That will make him, temporarily at least, the highest-paid closer in baseball history.
12:15 PM: Ken Rosenthal reports that the San Francisco Giants are close to a deal with closer Mark Melancon.
Melancon had an outstanding 2016, posting a 1.64 ERA, 2.42 FIP and a 5.42 K/BB rate in 71.1 innings while saving 47 games for the Pirates and Nationals. You may recall that the Giants had a strong interest in Melancon last summer. It was a well-founded interest given the bullpen woes which waylaid San Francisco in the second half of last season and continued on into the playoffs.
The terms of the apparently impeding deal will be known soon enough, but Rosenthal reported yesterday that Melancon was fielding offers in the four-years, $60 million range. That’s a lot for a closer, but it’ll probably look like a bargain compared to the deals signed with the other two top closers on the market, Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. Some have speculated that Chapman could get a deal closer to $100 million than $50 million, though that seems optimistic.
What the past couple of seasons have shown, however, is that having a top bullpen will get you very, very far in Major League Baseball. Champan may have been gassed at the end of Game 7, but he was essential to the Cubs’ World Series title. Powerful bullpens gave the Royals a title in 2015 and the Indians an AL pennant this past year. A weak one was, obviously, the Giants’ achilles heel.
Their great need at the back end of the pen, according to Rosenthal’s report, is apparently about to be filled.