John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle was first with the story:
I heard Dontrelle Willis will be signing a minor-league contract with the #sfgiants
— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) January 10, 2014
CSNBayArea.com’s Andrew Baggarly later confirmed it, adding that it is not likely that the Encinal High School graduate will receive an invitation to spring training.
This is Willis’ second stint with the Giants; he made five appearances at Triple-A Fresno in 2010 before being released.
Willis splashed onto the scene as a 21-year-old with the Florida Marlins in 2003, winning the National League Rookie of the Year award after going 14-6 with a 3.30 ERA and 1.282 WHIP in 27 starts for the Marlins in 160.2 innings, striking out 142. He made two starts and five relief appearances for Florida in the playoffs that season, including 3.2 innings in three scoreless relief appearances in the Marlins’ World Series win over the Yankees.
Willis led the National League with 22 wins, seven complete games and five shutouts for Florida in 2005, finishing second in the Cy Young voting to Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals.
But his career started to go sideways in 2007, with he was 10-15 with a 5.17 ERA and 1.597 WHIP for Florida, leading the league with 35 starts but allowing 118 earned runs in 205.1 innings.
He was part of the massive deal in December 2007 that sent Miguel Cabrera and Willis to the Detroit Tigers for a package of young players that included Burke Badenhop, Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller.
The Tigers traded Willis to Arizona in June 2010 for Billy Buckner after he was just 2-8 with a 6.86 ERA and 1.931 WHIP in 101 innings over two-plus seasons, with 92 walks. His control had simply vanished as he struggled to find a release point and a delivery that he could duplicate.
After he was released by Arizona after a little more than a month, Willis signed with the Giants. He later pitched for the Reds, Phillies, Orioles, Cubs and Angels organizations and last appeared in the majors with Cincinnati in 2011.
He was 68-54 with a 3.78 ERA and 1.359 WHIP in 1,022.2 innings in five seasons with the Marlins, but since then has gone 4-15 with a 6.15 ERA and 1.814 WHIP in 199 innings for three different teams, walking an unsightly 7.1 batters per nine innings.
He was an All-Star in both 2003 and 2005, but at this point, anything Willis, who turns 32 on Sunday, could eventually contribute at the big-league level would have to be considered a bonus.
He was originally an eighth-round pick by the Cubs out of Encinal High School in Alameda and was traded to the Marlins in the spring of 2002 as part of a deal that sent Antonio Alfonseca and Matt Clement to Chicago.