There is some speculation that Willis will be shopped during the offseason. But then again that has been what we have heard that for going on three years now.
From 2003-2005, his record was 46-27 with a 3.27 ERA. Since then, it's been a different story. He is 21-27 with a 4.54 ERA.
The fact that his production has dropped at a time his salary is at $6.45 million and projects to increase to more than $7 million in 2008 has raised the belief that the Marlins are prepared to deal the D-Train in the offseason.
There is a growing feeling within the team clubhouse and from league sources that Willis' career in Florida is coming to a close.
Willis is hearing the same thing.
"I never think about that, but from what I'm hearing, it could be very likely," said Willis, referring to being traded. "If that's the case, I will be making my last start as a Marlin here in this stadium [on Tuesday]. We'll see. But if that's the case, I've loved being here. This is my family. They know that. This is all I know."
Willis's troubles had former Marlin Paul Lo Duca pondering the following:
Then again that could be related to the reason the Marlins have decided to go looking for a new pitching coach.
"He has to have the same release point," Kranitz said. "If you're herky-jerky and the arms are flailing, the chances are you're not going to repeat as well. You never want to take away something that's going to make a guy deceptive, but if it can't be consistent you have to at least try to smooth out the rough edges."
Yeah, that smoothing thing has really worked out for the best.
There is also speculation that Willis's fate rest on who the new pitching coach will be.
Scouts say Willis has lost velocity and that his trade value took a big hit this season, and there is speculation from scouts around the majors that if the Marlins do attempt to trade Willis they won't get much in return.
I beg to differ with the scouts assessment, 25 year-old left-handed former 20 game winners don't grow on trees and there is always a club who thinks if they can just get him in their organization they can right the ship.
Naturally I don't want Willis to be traded. He is, after all, the face and pulse of the team and I doubt that he will be if the scouts are right. I mean why would you? But assuming they aren't and the Front Office can make a deal it likes, presumably for prospects, it is going to speak volumes about their feelings on a stadium deal being completed anything soon and their expectations for the 2008 and 2009 seasons. Especially since prospects take time to develop.
Of course, he could be traded for a center fielder but that doesn't seem like it would be much of a trade on the Marlins part. For all of the problems the team had fielding this season, center field wasn't the most glaring hole and exactly how many runs do the Marlins need to score to win games? Trust me, if they aren't getting the results from the staff, they can't score enough. Pitching is at premium in the Majors right now and giving it away for some cheap outfielder or catcher doesn't make all that much sense. Nor does it make any sense to think Willis can't regain his form. He is not some 40 year old who is at the end of his career but a young man still yet to reach his prime. Naturally it could be just about money but if that is the case, the front office is big time pessimistic about getting a stadium deal done.
But anyway, the Marlins could be shopping Dontrelle in the offseason. And that, is nothing new -- they do it every year.