When last we checked in with Dontrelle Willis the former Rookie of the Year had been released by the Giants in April and was talking about potentially becoming a pitching coach.
Apparently nothing came of that, because now Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports that Willis has signed with the Bridgeport Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League and will make his debut Friday night.
Willis is still just 32 years old, but he hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2011 and hasn’t been effective in the majors since way back in 2006. Since then he has a 5.65 ERA in 404 innings as a major leaguer, with some similarly ugly numbers in the minors of late.
I still wonder what might have happened if Willis had given up pitching in 2009 or so and focused on becoming a full-time hitter, like Rick Ankiel. At this point that ship has sailed too, unfortunately, but he’s a career .244 hitter with nine homers and a .665 OPS in 447 plate appearances.
The Royals are in agreement with right-handed reliever Drew Storen on a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the deal is worth $1.25 million if the veteran righty breaks camp with the club this spring. Additional, albeit unspecified incentives will be included in the contract as well.
Storen, 31, is coming off of a protracted absence from any MLB duties. After inking a one-year deal with the Reds in 2017, he sustained a right elbow sprain toward the end of the year and underwent Tommy John surgery that October. He was effectively decommissioned for the club’s entire 2018 run and generated little interest around the league this winter, perhaps due in part to the uninspired 4.45 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, 7.9 SO/9, and career-low -0.2 fWAR he posted across 54 2/3 innings during his last healthy season.
While it’s not immediately clear what kind of performance the Royals can expect from Storen in spring training, they’re not exactly in a position to be choosy. Their bullpen ranked dead last among all MLB teams with a collective 5.04 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and -2.2 fWAR last year, and still appears to be in a state of flux as they approach Opening Day. Skipper Ned Yost told reporters Wednesday that he intends to eschew the traditional closer appointment in 2019 and will instead utilize a combination of right-handers Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger, lefty Tim Hill, and various others as he tackles high-leverage situations in the future.