John Lowe of the Free Press has the details of the deal struck today between the Tigers and Diamondbacks that sends recently designated for assignment pitcher Dontrelle Willis to Phoenix, along with cash to cover the majority of his pro-rated 2010 salary, in exchange for starting pitcher Billy Buckner.
Willis had been largely ineffective for the Tigers going 1-2 with an ERA of 4.98. He walked 29 batters in 43.1 innings pitched. Those numbers are a mild improvement on his numbers from the last two seasons in Detroit. His contract guaranteed him $12 million for this season. All but the league minimum will be paid by Detroit as part of the trade.
In exchange, the Tigers receive a well-traveled pitcher of relatively few years. Billy Buckner is just 26, but Detroit marks his third organization. He's been used both as a starter and a reliever, though the bulk of his games have been starts. Despite modest minor league success as a starter, Buckner has yet to develop into a reliable big league pitcher. His eventual destination is likely middle relief. For 2010, he's posted an 0-3 record with an ERA of 11.08
The deal closes another chapter int he curious case of Dontrelle Willis. After a Rookie of the Year season in 2003 and a World Series title with the Marlins, Willis cemented himself as a top-notch pitcher in 2005 at the age of 23. He led the NL in wins, finished second in the Cy Young vote and appeared well on his way to greatness. He was dealt following the 2007 season when his ERA slipped to what was at the time a career worst 5.17. He has yet to pitch 100 innings in the majors since. In that time, Willis has dealt with anxiety issues that may have been related to the slip in his performance.
Joe Tetreault is Managing Editor of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He can be contacted here through The Biz of Baseball
Follow Joe Tetreault on Twitter
Follow The Biz of Baseball on Twitter
Follow the Business of Sports Network on Facebook