A few weeks ago I reported that the Baltimore Orioles signed Dontrelle Willis to a minor league deal. While he wasn’t expected to be a starter, he could have been a useful arm to have in the bullpen. He’s been nearly unhittable against left handed batters, and even the Orioles could use a guy like that to have around.
However, Jon Heyman reported a few days ago Willis was put on the restricted list. The Orioles argued that Willis just got up and left them, and when a player does that they get put on the restricted list. Essentially it prevents Willis from signing with another team, and it means that he will not get paid until the Orioles remove him from the restricted list.
Now we’re hearing it’s not so cut and dry, as Jerry Crasnick reports that Willis indeed had permission to leave the Orioles. Here is what Dontrelle’s agent, Matt Sosnick, had to say about Willis being put on the restricted list:
Willis received permission from Tripp Norton,Baltimore’s director of baseball administration, before leaving the Norfolk Tides last Wednesday, said agent Matt Sosnick.
“Dan has said nobody gave Dontrelle permission,” Sosnick told ESPN.com. “Dan knows that’s not true. I can’t imagine making this kind of deal over something so trivial. We’re talking about a minor league player thatBaltimorehas relatively no financial investment in whatsoever. It’s the dumbest thing ever and a waste of everybody’s time. Dan has had a thousand chances to ratchet this down a notch, and all he’s done is ratchet it up.”
“Tripp told Dontrelle, ‘If Dan isn’t open to him starting, of course we’ll give him his release. We don’t want a player doing something he doesn’t want to do,’” Sosnick said. “I’ve known Tripp Norton for 15 years and had good, direct, honest dealings with him time after time. I’m disappointed for Tripp that he’s been placed in the middle of this.”
It is interesting that the Orioles would put Willis, a minor leaguer, on the restricted list. A minor league player makes very little money, so it’s not for financial reasons. And given Willis poor production over the past few years, it can’t be that they want to prevent him from playing for another organization. In Crasnick’s article Willis complained that his arm was hurting as a reliever, which is part of the reason why he didn’t feel like it was a good idea for him to remain in the bullpen. Since the Orioles wanted to use him as a reliever, it makes sense that Willis would not want to continue working with the organization if he felt it would be dangerous for his long term health.
Willis also argued that he had no idea the Orioles didn’t approve of his leave:
“I thought it was a mutual parting of ways,” Willis said. “It’s one of those things where, if he had told me he was putting me on the restricted list, I wouldn’t have left. I didn’t grab my book bag and run out of the class. I’m almost dumbfounded. I’m not even upset. I don’t know if it’s personal because I don’t know Dan.”
It’s a very strange situation the Orioles have put themselves in. If Willis is right, then they continue to prove that the front office is beyond disorganized and should be purged once again. If the Orioles are right, and Willis hadn’t received permission to leave, then they should have simply released him. Keeping him on the restricted list is just a poor way to handle the situation, and it shows that the Orioles won’t be able to compete until new management is in place.