Tigers trade Willis to Diamondbacks
The Tigers traded Dontrelle Willis to the Arizona Diamondbacks for right-hander Billy Buckner, opening up the possibility that the left-hander will return to Detroit as a visiting player later this month.
Willis had a very disappointing three seasons in Detroit, winning only two games despite earning $29 million. He dealt with control problems and an anxiety disorder during his time with the Tigers.
The left-hander is earning $12 million this year. One major-league source said Detroit will pay all but the prorated league minimum salary.
Willis went 1-2 with a 4.98 ERA in nine games for the Tigers this year. The team grew weary of his control issues and designated his contract for assignment last weekend.
But the Tigers never publicly questioned his effort, and team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski was complimentary of Willis during a news conference Tuesday.
“This was a good fit for him,” Dombrowski said. “He just bought a home in Arizona. We’re all pulling for him to do well and hope it works out for him.”
Except, of course, during an interleague series at Comerica Park on June 18-20.
“I hope we beat him,” Dombrowski quipped, when asked about the possibility. “That’s pretty simple. I wish him well all the other times, but I hope we beat him that one.”
Willis was “happy” to learn of his destination, Dombrowski said. That’s not surprising. One of Willis’ friends said earlier this week that the left-hander would “love to play on the West Coast,” with Arizona being his first choice. Dombrowski said he spoke with “a couple clubs” about Willis.
“A change of scenery can only benefit him,” the GM said.
Though Willis has been inconsistent, he should help the Diamondbacks. They have the worst ERA in the majors and lost Monday on a walk-off balk.
It appears that Willis will join the Arizona rotation right away.
“By doing this quickly, he doesn’t have any downtime as far as not being able to pitch,” Dombrowski said. “He’s ready to step in and pitch for them immediately.”
Buckner will report to Triple-A Toledo. Dombrowski said Buckner offers the Tigers “protection” because he can pitch as a starter or reliever. A former second-round pick of the Royals, Buckner struggled in three major-league starts this season but has pitched well at Triple-A Reno.
Dombrowski indicated that broader trade conversations haven’t intensified yet. “We’re just getting to that point,” he said. “It’s just starting.”