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Cubs ink Dontrelle Willis

The Chicago Cubs are taking a flyer on Dontrelle Willis, giving the lefty a minor league contract for the 2013 season.

Leon Halip

The Chicago Cubs have signed lefty Dontrelle Willis to a minor league deal, according to Jon Heyman. The deal gives the 2003 Rookie of the Year an invite to the minor league Spring Training camp but Heyman notes he could get a chance to make the team if he is throwing well.

Willis is returning from a brief retirement after walking away from the game last July. Prior to his retirement he threw just 6.1 innings for the Orioles AAA affiliate posting an 8.53 ERA. In 2011 he threw 75.1 innings for the Reds in 13 starts, posting a 5.00 ERA. After a promising start to his career, command issues derailed the "D-Train" at an early age.

After being traded from the Marlins to the Tigers in the deal that brought Miguel Cabrera to Detroit prior to the 2008 season, Willis walked 13.1 batters per nine in 24 innings his first year up north and never again managed to find the zone. After three straight seasons with over 7 BB/9 he reigned in the free passes some in 2011, with a 4.4 rate, but he was still well below average by ERA.

Willis will be just 31 during the 2013 season and he could have plenty baseball left in him if he can improve his control. This is an easy gamble for the rebuilding Cubs to as this is just a minor league deal. Should Willis prove he can still pitch, he can give Chicago another arm to exploit in trade as they rebuild. If he remains hopelessly wild, the Cubs commitment to him here is very small.