Dontrelle Willis once won Rookie of the Year and finished second in Cy Young voting. He's resurrected a career presumed done at age 26, and now he'll be asked to assume a role he's never filled before.
A major-league source confirmed the Phillies agreed to a one-year deal with Willis, pending a physical. His base salary, first reported by ESPN.com, will be less than $1 million. All of Willis' 13 appearances were starts in 2011 and 202 of his 205 career games are starts, but the source said he'll be reliever for the Phillies.
Willis posted a 5.00 ERA in 75 2/3 innings for Cincinnati in 2011, but the Phillies apparently saw enough to guarantee the lefthander a one-year contract for 2012.
The answer probably lies in his ability to retire lefthanders.
His career numbers against lefties are outstanding, holding them to a .200/.274/.288 slash line. In 2011, those numbers were even better, as lefties hit .127 with a .369 OPS against. He turns 30 in January.
Ruben Amaro Jr. said he wanted to add a lefthanded reliever at the winter meetings and Willis simply adds depth to a unit teeming with promise. The other advantage: Theoretically, if the Phillies needed a starter to slide into the rotation because of injury, Willis presents that backup plan.
The Phillies have now guaranteed contracts to three relievers -- Jonathan Papelbon, Jose Contreras and Willis. Contreras' health is still in question, but he is scheduled to begin throwing in January. Kyle Kendrick was offered arbitration. The remaining three spots in the bullpen will be filled by a handful of young arms. Figure Antonio Bastardo is a lock. That leaves Mike Stutes, Justin De Fratus, Phillippe Aumont, David Herndon, Michael Schwimer and Joe Savery to fight for two spots.