Dontrelle Willis agreed yesterday to a three-year, $29 million contract with the Detroit Tigers, two weeks after he was acquired from the Florida Marlins.
Willis and All-Star third baseman Miguel Cabrera were obtained from the Marlins for six prospects, including outfielder Cameron Maybin and left-handed pitcher Andrew Miller, in one of the offseason moves that made a good team potentially great.
Baseball's busiest team exercised its option on catcher Ivan Rodriguez's contract shortly after the season, then traded for shortstop Edgar Renteria and outfielder Jacque Jones and re-signed closer Todd Jones and starting pitcher Kenny Rogers.
But none of those deals had the instant impact on the field or with the fan base that the Cabrera-Willis one did, which led to the team selling 3,000 season-ticket packages to new customers.
"The Tigers were already good without me, but hopefully I can play a small part in putting the club over the hump to win another championship," Willis said.
A two-time All-Star and the 2003 National League Rookie of the Year, Willis is coming off a down season in which he went 10-15 with a 5.17 ERA. His deal allows him to make an additional $1.5 million in bonuses.
Willis is 68-54 with a 3.78 in 162 starts over five seasons, including 2005, when he won a career-high 22 games. He turns 26 next month. "I want to thank you guys for believing in me," he said. "I'm eager to join an already great ballclub, and hopefully I can help bring a world championship to the club."
Willis joins a rotation that already included Rogers, Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman.
Red Sox -- Closer Jonathan Papelbon said his bulldog, Boss, trashed the ball that was caught for the final out in the 2007 World Series. "He plays with baseballs like they are his toys," Papelbon told Mississippi's Hattiesburg American. "He jumped up one day on the counter and snatched it. He likes rawhide. He tore that thing to pieces. Nobody knows that. I'll keep what's left of it." The Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., has a bunch of Red Sox memorabilia from the 2007 World Series, including Papelbon's glove. "We did not ask for the ball," spokesman Jeff Idelson said. "We were more focused on other items."
Phillies -- Outfielder Geoff Jenkins agreed to a two-year contract, giving the defending NL East champions a veteran to help make up for the departure of All-Star Aaron Rowand. Jenkins hit .255 with 21 homers and 64 RBIs for the Brewers this past season. Jenkins, 33, was an All-Star in 2003 and has hit at least 20 homers in seven of nine full seasons in the majors. ... Philadelphia also agreed to a one-year contract with right-hander Chad Durbin, who went 8-7 with a 4.72 ERA in 36 games with the Tigers.
Bonds -- Indicted slugger Barry Bonds is scheduled to make a brief court appearance today for a hearing to determine whether some of his attorneys have a conflict of interest in his federal perjury and obstruction case. The judge called the hearing to decide whether the lawyers can still work for Bonds even though they previously represented other athletes who testified in the government's investigation into performance-enhancing drugs. Prosecutors are concerned that two of his lawyers won't conduct a rigorous cross-examination of their former clients if called to testify, setting up an appeals avenue for Bonds should he be convicted.