UPDATE: The Orioles have just announced Dontrelle Willis’ retirement.
The D-Train finally accepted what we all knew to be true: his time as an effective ballplayer had passed. But it was a good run for a while. For his career, Willis finishes with a career 72-59 record and a 4.17 ERA in 1221 and two-thirds innings. His first four years in the majors, however, were pretty nice. From 2003 through 2006, Willis was 58-39 with a 3.44 ERA.
While we all thought that was just a tease of good things left to come, it turned out to be the high water mark. Which is sad given how enjoyable it was to watch Willis in his prime, but sometimes that’s how it goes.
4:20PM: Dontrelle Willis continues to toil unsuccessfully in the Orioles’ system, but that time may be ending. Roch Kubatko tweets that Willis will not make his next start and is considering retirement.
It’s been a looong time since Willis was effective. Setting aside his train wreck minor league season this year — 8.53 ERA — he posted a 5.00 ERA and 57/37 K/BB ratio in 76 innings for the Reds last season. Over the past five seasons he has a 5.65 ERA in 404 innings.
Nothing personal, but Willis is deader than vaudeville at this point, and retirement seems like a pretty decent option.
MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the Orioles have interest in free agent right-hander Alex Cobb, who rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Rays earlier this week. Cobb was most recently linked to the Cubs, who reportedly reached out to his agent during the GM Meetings and garnered mutual interest from the righty, but nothing appears to be set in stone yet.
Cobb, 30, completed his sixth season with the Rays in 2017. He went 12-10 in 29 starts and turned in a respectable 3.66 ERA, 6.4 SO/9 and career-best 2.2 BB/9 in 179 1/3 innings. Despite losing a couple of weeks to turf toe, he remained healthy for most of the year and showed no signs of the elbow issues that robbed him of the majority of his 2015-2016 campaigns.
It’s still fairly early for any deals to come to fruition, but Morosi notes that the Orioles seem to be focused on bulking up their rotation during the first few months of the offseason. It’ll take more than a healthy Alex Cobb to right that ship, however: Orioles’ starters earned a collective 5.70 ERA and 5.5 fWAR in 2017, good for worst and fourth-worst marks in the league, respectively. Behind Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy (and perhaps Gabriel Ynoa/Miguel Castro), they still need three viable starters to compete in 2018. Whether or not they can afford to spring for a single starter with Cobb’s price tag (four years, $48 million, per MLB Trade Rumors) remains to be seen.