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Friday, January 10, 2014

Giants add Dontrelle Willis on Minor League deal

After a quiet holiday season and kick off to 2014, the Giants did make some headlines Friday by agreeing to a minor league deal with one-time Marlin's sensation, Dontrelle Willis.

It will be the second time in four years that the former Marlin's ace will join the organization. In 2010, he pitched five games in relief for Fresno before asking to be released. He then went on to go 1-6 with a 5.00 ERA in 13 starts with the Reds in 2011, which was the last time he pitched in the big leagues. Obviously, the Giants' starting rotation is already set, so Willis won't have any shot at making the 25-man roster out of the gate, but the Giants are hoping they can get him back to the point where he could at least provide an option for them should they need an extra starter at some point down the road. The thing is, Willis has been terrible at every stop outside of independent ball over the last couple of years, and there's a good chance he won't make any impact whatsoever for the club, just like in 2010. With that said, the Giants have had some success with reclamation projects over the last few years, from their comeback "poster boy", Ryan Vogelsong, to smaller scale rebounds like Chad Gaudin's and Yusmeiro Petit's in 2013. They would have preferred Mark Mulder under similar circumstances, but couldn't get him to ink a minor league deal, so Dontrelle Willis will be their project for 2014.

Will the D-Train become the next Ryan Vogelsong? Probably not. But he's 32, has had some success in the past and we've all seen much stranger things happen. Plus, there's no risk in the signing, so even if he flames out a la 2010, it's not like it cost the Giants big money or a roster spot. Extremely low-risk, potentially decent reward type of signing.

This all comes down to the Giants wanting Major League ready depth in their starting rotation. They ran into issues with their starting pitching depth last season and had to force guys that weren't nearly ready to face Major League hitters to try and give them quality innings. Unfortunately, they won't have Chad Gaudin around this year to help them out, and could very well lose Yusmeiro Petit, who's out of minor league options. The problem they're running into is finding halfway decent starting pitchers to sign minor league deals and they don't have space to spare on their 40-man roster. Ideally, they'll find some way to keep Petit in the organization because he's their 6th starter at the moment, and if they lose him, Willis would be as logical a choice as any to take that spot (until Edwin Escobar is ready at least). Petit could have a roll on the opening day roster as the long reliever, which is something Bochy said he would like to carry in 2014. The Giants bullpen is somewhat up in air after Romo, Casilla, Affeldt and Lopez, and although there are some intriguing bullpen options remaining on the market, the Giants work in free agency (at the major league level anyway), appears done for the winter. Petit's ability to start and his lack of minor league options could place him on the opening day roster by default, especially if he has a productive spring.

While on the topic of starting pitching reclamation projects, another guy who's floating around out there who I'd be all for rolling the dice on is Tommy Hanson. I haven't really mentioned him because he's never really pitched in releif, but I'd love to bring him in and have him battle it out with Petit for that long reliever spot. A shift back to the NL and a spacious yard like AT&T could be just what Hanson needs to regain form that had him as one of the NL's best right-handers just a couple years ago. If he got close to that form, he'd probably even become a better option than Vogey in the 5th spot. At 27 years of age, he's more than capable of bouncing back, and could end up being one of the steals of the offseason for whoever takes a chance on him should that happen.
The Giants Baseball Blog


  • At 10:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    DTrain's done, But rolling the dice on a minor league deal is fine by me.

  • At 12:29 PM, Anonymous Berdj Joseph Rassam said…

    The Giants have tried to bring Willis back, as have other teams, to no avail; don't know what will be different this time.


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