Dontrelle Willis reached agreement Monday on a one-year, guaranteed $6.45 million contract with the Florida Marlins, a day before he was scheduled to exchange salary arbitration figures with the club.
Willis' deal includes $50,000 in incentives, a "sizable" advance on his salary, and bonuses if he makes the All-Star team or wins the Cy Young Award, Silver Slugger or National League Most Valuable Player Award, according to his agent, Matt Sosnick.
If Willis stays healthy, he will be in position to surpass the $6.5 million salary earned by the Chicago Cubs' Carlos Zambrano in 2006. That's the most money ever for a starting pitcher in his second year of salary arbitration.
Willis is Florida's franchise leader with 58 victories and 15 complete games, and ranks second on the team's career innings pitched list behind A.J. Burnett. He won 22 games and was runner-up to St. Louis' Chris Carpenter in the 2005 NL Cy Young Award race, and went 12-12 with a 3.87 ERA for the Marlins last season while ranking fifth in the league with 223 1/3 innings pitched.
Regardless, $6.45 million is a steal for the Marlins. They get another year from their staff ace and fan favorite for, oh, slightly less than Barry Zito's $18 million average annual salary.
However, the Marlins didn't lock Willis up for his all-important walk year in 2008. Perhaps they saw what happened to the Nationals and Alfonso Soriano and intend to trade him when his value is highest?
UPDATE: Not content to let the Marlins steal the arbitration-avoiding spotlight, the Reds came to terms with former Dodger David Ross:
Coming off a breakout season with the Reds, Ross avoided arbitration and was rewarded on Monday with a two-year, $4.54 million contract with a $3.5 million club option for 2009.
Ross, 29, batted .255 in 2006 with a career-high 21 home runs and 52 RBIs. He played in a career-high 90 games.
"He's earned it," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "He worked hard. We're really pleased and it's a good result."