It's no secret that Dontrelle Willis is struggling. That's why it came as no surprise when the Detroit Tigers decided that he wasn't worth what they were spending on him—they designated him for assignment on May 30th.
However, there may be a perfect situation for him in St. Louis.
The Cardinals, who through Sunday were 29-22, could be looking for some pitching help, with starters Brad Penny and Kyle Lohse on the disabled list.
The biggest reason the Cardinals and Dontrelle could have mutual interest is the Cardinals' famed pitching coach, Dave Duncan.
The Willis case could be seen as similar to that of another former Detroit Tiger, 2006 reclamation project Jeff Weaver. After posting a 3-10 record with a 6.29 ERA in Anaheim, he was designated for assignment on June 30.
Weaver won important games to help the Cardinals win the National League Central Division, and then was a rock in the playoffs, helping to deliver the Cardinals a World Series Championship.
However, Dontrelle Willis is even more promising than Jeff Weaver was. Willis has gobs of talent, which he proved during his years in Florida, where he won the 2003 Rookie of the Year and finished second in 2005 National League Cy Young Award voting behind Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter.
Willis would be one of the most talented pitchers ever to play for Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan, so he should be an easier reclamation project than say, Joel Piñeiro.
Another reason to pounce on Dontrelle is that he could come very cheaply. Now that he has been designated for assignment, the Tigers have three options. They can trade him, pass him through waivers, or, if he isn't picked up by another team, give him his outright release. With Willis's recent performance, the Tigers might be willing to part with him for chump change.
However, his salary for the upcoming season is $12 million. That's an issue for the Cardinals, who are already strapped for cash. So for a trade scenario, the Cardinals would need money to cover Willis's salary. It's hard to imagine that scenario.
It's more likely that Dontrelle will pass through waivers and be released, where the Cardinals can sign him to a cheap deal and the Tigers will be forced to cover the rest of his salary.
Picking up Willis could give the Cardinals options with the starting rotation. If Willis performs anywhere near his 2003 Rookie of the Year form under Duncan's tutelage, they could plug him into the rotation, and shop around Kyle Lohse, whose 4-year/$40 million dollar deal is the only black spot on the Cardinals' payroll.
If Willis continues his dismal performance, St. Louis could trade Willis, simply cut ties with the erstwhile southpaw, or put him in the bullpen, where he could be very effective as a reliever.
Whatever the Cardinals decide to do, they should remember one of baseball's most consistent truths: One team's trash is Dave Duncan's treasure.
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