How Much for Public Transportation?

In the days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline speculation ran ramped that the Arizona Diamondbacks were interested in acquiring Dontrelle Willis from the Florida Marlins. This would have been seen by the Florida fans as yet another classic move by an organization with little class. Willis is only 24 and has three years of Major League service. He has established a name for himself which usually equates to being paid star money. Given the Marlins commitment to having the lowest payroll not only among other MLB teams but I think they are now striving to have a payroll similar to the concession workers at Joe Robbe stadium. Florida would no doubt be looking for low cost high ceiling prospects in exchange for D-Train. Given the depth of the Diamondbacks farm system; they would seem to be a natural fit for just such a transaction. The question is, would you try and make a trade for Dontrelle Willis?

Willis arrived in the major leagues in 2003 after being in the minors for only two seasons. During his rookie season he established himself as a big game pitcher. He accumulated a record of 14-6 that year with an ERA of 3.30. He pitched 160 innings that first year and struck out 142 batters. In 2004, his first full year in the majors, Dontrelle threw 197 innings earning a record of 10-11 with 139 strikeouts. If you happened to believe in a sophomore jinx, Willis’ numbers suggest a slight downturn but nothing earth shattering. Last season he rebounded going 22-10 in 34 games pitching 236 innings and striking out 170 hitters. This was his best season to date and expectations were high that Dontrelle Willis would be a force to be reckoned with for the foreseeable future. This season though has been troublesome for him. He has not gotten the run support he has deserved but he has also not been as effective. This season he has pitched in 29 games and thrown 192 innings closing in on the 200 inning plateau for the second consecutive year. He has struck-out 134 batters and has established an ERA of 3.93. If Dontrelle continues on his current pace for the remaining 3 starts this season he will end 2006 throwing 221 innings with a record of 10-13 striking out 154 and maintaining his 3.93 earned run average. These numbers are a slight decline over last season but again nothing to worry about. The number of innings pitched continues to rise making you wonder how long he will remain a workhorse before succumbing to injury.

There is no argument that having a strong left-handed starter at the top of your rotation would be extremely beneficial especially in the National League Western Division where you see the likes of Barry Bonds, Todd Helton, Brad Hawpe, Andrew Ethier, and Brian Giles more times in an unbalanced schedule. You only need to look at the Randy Johnson era with the Diamondbacks to see what kind of impact such a power pitcher might have. Dontrelle’s age and number of years experience is also a positive as the team would be able to hold onto him for a few years before free agency becomes a factor. But his somewhat inconsistency not only in last nights game but all season should remind everyone that dealing for pitching can always be a gamble. It may be that the trade talk and management issues in Miami have taken their toll on Willis and a change of scenery may be what he needs to take his game to the next level. The thoughts of having Webb and Willis at the top of the rotation makes you begin to reminisce what it was like when Schilling and Johnson terrorized the National League not so long ago.

Those dreams need to be tempered by the asking price that Florida would exact from the Diamondbacks. Let’s not forget that in 1999 the Diamondbacks made a trade with Florida to bring in a closer they desperately needed. While Matt Mantei did bring stability to the bullpen he also brought a lot of arm troubles. In exchange the Diamondbacks sent Brad Penny to Florida who has established himself as an all-star and leader in Los Angeles. At a minimum the Diamondbacks are probably going to have to give up at least one of their talented outfield prospects, catching prospect Miguel Montero, and a couple of pitchers. That may be more of a price than the Diamondbacks are willing to accept. If that happens it will be yet another blow to public transportation in Phoenix as there will be no D-Train stops at Chase Field.

1 Comment

  1. Great analysis

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