Billy Buckner Rumors
It’s a new beginning for Dontrelle Willis, who returns to the league he once thrived in. And it’s an attempt to restore order by the Diamondbacks, who have allowed more runs than any NL team and are in the midst of an eight-game losing streak. Today the D’Backs announced that they have acquired Willis and cash from the Tigers for Billy Buckner.
There's about $8MM remaining on Willis' salary and the Tigers will pay all of it, except the pro-rated portion of the major league minimum. Buckner, a 26-year-old righty who started three games for Arizona this year, will begin his Tigers career in Triple A, according to the team. Buckner allowed 26 hits in 13 big league innings this year, striking out 11 and walking five. The former second rounder pitched better in Triple A, posting a 3.53 ERA with 5.6 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9.
Ed Price of AOL FanHouse first reported the deal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports confirmed it (via Twitter). Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reported that Buckner was in the deal (via Twitter) and Jon Heyman of SI.com reported how much cash was changing hands (via Twitter).
TUESDAY 3:41pm: D-Backs' managing general partner Ken Kendrick says the payroll will likely increase to north of $75MM next year, according to MLB.com's Steve Gilbert. The payroll in 2009 was appoximately $73.5MM.
"We definitely have more than $10 million to spend in the market," Kendrick said. "There are other moves that we may make that could change the money landscape that have yet to be determined."
MONDAY 6:54pm: Arizona Diamondbacks President and CEO Derrick Hall said his team is "definitely adding to the payroll" during a web chat on MLB.com Monday.
Hall weighed in on a huge number of issues, including:
- He wants to look at free agent starting pitchers, relievers, and a bench player. He expects most acquisitions to come through trades.
- He believes both Juan Gutierrez and Esmerling Vasquez can pitch the sixth, seventh or eighth innings next season.
- Only Brandon Webb, Dan Haren and Max Scherzer are guaranteed rotation spots in 2010. Billy Buckner, Kevin Mulvey, and possibly free agents could also be in the mix.
- Stephen Drew "would be too tough to replace if we ever moved him."
The Diamondbacks are facing too much of a good thing this spring, with five relievers competing for just one remaining spot in the bullpen.
Righthander Dustin Nippert was the frontrunner, but has stumbled in Spring Training. Strong performances by young throwers Billy Buckner, Juan Gutierrez, and Yusmeiro Petit have also complicated the situation, as each has made a strong case for his inclusion on the big-league roster. However, Nippert and fellow righty Brandon Medders have both been with the team for three years, and are out of minor league options. If the Diamondbacks leave them off the roster, they'll hit the waiver wire.
One thought is that if Randy Johnson isn't ready to go, his absence will leave a second slot open for a pitcher. However, that could still leave Medders and Nippert disappointed.
Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star recently snagged our Rumor Royalty honor for the Royals. It's a way to acknowledge the best beat writer for each team, the person who brings us the most hot stove material. I do a Q&A with each writer, if they're willing. Click here and scroll to see all the entries in the Rumor Royalty series.
Dutton: I think it was a reasonable gamble -- but it was a gamble, no question about it. Callaspo's off-field problems are well-documented, but he'll get a new slate in Kansas City.
The Royals' reasoning was this: They have no long-term replacement for second baseman Mark Grudzielanek, who turns 38 at the end of June. Esteban German is a top utilityman but his production tends to fall off when given regular duty. Callaspo was a top prospect throughout his minor-league career.
The Royals also believe Buckner tops out as a No. 4 starter. I've got to say that I didn't see much in his limited big-league time, but I mean that in both ways. His stuff didn't particularly impress me, but I really didn't see him pitch a lot. Some folks I respect think he's got a real chance.
From Arizona's view, put Buckner on a young, talented team in a rotation that includes Webb, Haren and, probably, Johnson, and there's a chance he really blossoms. Also, the D-Backs don't need Callaspo even if he wasn't a headache.
The question for the Royals, however, is whether it's worth trading a young, back-of-the-rotation starter for a young second baseman with high-end potential. If you need a second baseman, I think it's a no-brainer -- until you factor in that the second baseman brings some baggage. That baggage makes it a gamble.
Buckner, a labrum surgery survivor, has a plus curveball according to Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein. Goldstein adds that he's able to get groundballs and projects as a fourth starter. Throw him in the NL, maybe he could even become a #3.
Callaspo is one of the better second base prospects out there, but keep in mind that good prospects rarely come up at that position. He almost never whiffs, and plays strong defense. The high contact approach led to a .341 average in Triple A this year. That the D'Backs shipped him off could imply they want to sign Orlando Hudson long-term. Perhaps Callaspo's off-field indiscretions played into the decision. At any rate he's a nice addition for the Royals.