It will most likely be the most minor transaction that Theo Epstien and Jed Hoyer make all winter. It has a 90-95% chance of being irrelevant. It's actually already been beaten to death. And yet I still can't help but smile at the Cubs signing of Dontrelle Willis. He signed a minor league deal. He's not even invited to big league spring training. But he'll get a chance to pitch himself into an invite and into their plans should Mr. Willis turn his career around. And I love it.
When the deal was announced, people took to Twitter like a starving comedian at an open mike made out of ham. All the lame ass jokes were used.
" hey, it's like we got Matt Clement, Alfonseca, AND WILLIS! Boy we won that trade."
"Any more 2003 Marlins we can sign? Is Chris Redman available?"
"Finally found that left handed bat to hit behind Castro..."
Okay.....that last one was pretty funny. But all the usual BS was thrown out there. And this was by people who have "Avid Cub fan" in their twitter bios. You can imagine what the detractors, the people at the Score, or any one of the 47 White Sox fans in the city were saying.
When the Cubs traded Willis I had no idea who he was. Neither did any of you. But he was a blast to watch pitch. The unorthodox delivery, the high leg kid, the addictive smile. He made baseball fun. I kinda thought from the beginning that he was pitching over his skiis when he had all that success. 14 wins in his rookie year and 22 in 2005. Watching him pitch I always thought he'd have a career in the pen. Not just as a Loogy but as a reliever workhorse. But he lost his way in Detroit, was never going to find it in a Dusty Cincy, and god knows what happened in Baltimore. He looked shot. He very well could be.
But as much as I thought Willis was over performing in the early 2000's, I'm just as convinced he's not finished now. And Loogy's are maybe the most unpredictable, hardest commodity to find. The Cubs went through young power arms Scott maine, Jon Gaub, and Jeff Beliveau like crap through a goose and yet 70 somethings like Aurthur Lee Rhodes and Darren Oliver continue to pitch in the bigs. Donnie Veal went from waiver wire pickup to most dominant pitcher in the White Sox pen. It's entirely possible that Willis can find himself usable come August.
There will be those who think this is just an attempt to sign a "name" to draw up interest. There will also be those that say (incorrectly) that he's taking the place of some young up and coming prospect who could actually help the team. There will be those who think we shouldn't waste our time. Spare me. Dontrelle Willis' tweets to Jon Heyman showed a man going into this with his eyes wide open, aware of the long road ahead of him, and just grateful for the opportunity. How do you not root for that?
I've said it numerous times, but it bears repeating. When you sign up for the long term rebuilding plan, you get to enjoy your short term filler unconditionally. And while the D-train's comeback ranks outside the top 10, 25, or even 50 of Cub concerns, I have it circled. And look forward to nagging Arguello about him during his minor league recaps this season.