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D-Train to D-Backs; Eveland to Bucs

Arizona Diamondbacks acquired LHP Dontrelle Willis from the Detroit Tigers for RHP Billy Buckner.

As part of the deal, the Tigers will pick up what’s left of Willis’ $12 million salary for the 2010 season, save for the prorated portion of the big league minimum.

From 2003-2006, Dontrelle averaged 3.8 Wins Above Replacement per season. Since then, the lefty with the signature leg kick has racked up just 0.7 WAR, losing all semblance of strike zone control while battling knee, forearm and anxiety issues.

Happily, Willis is backing to taking regular turns in the rotation. But it’s difficult to be especially optimistic about his ability to contribute. Moving back to the NL certainly won’t hurt the D-Train’s chances of a career revival, but in 43.1 IP with the Tigers this season, he had 6.85 K/9, 6.02 BB/9, a 45.5 GB% and a 4.93 xFIP.

Stuff-wise, Willis’ fastball is down 2-3 ticks from its peak velocity, sitting 87-88 MPH. He’s still using the pitch over 70 percent of the time, though, adding in 80-81 MPH sliders and 81 MPH changeups. None of those offerings are garnering many swings and misses, as Willis’ swinging strike rate (5.1%) is the lowest of his career and well below the 8-9% MLB average. As Dontrelle’s walk rate suggests, hitters are getting ahead in the count often: Willis’ first pitch strike percentage is 52.5 (58% MLB average).

Willis will slot into the back of Arizona’s rotation, but ZiPS’ rest-of-season projection isn’t pretty for the 28-year-old: 5.52 K/9, 6 BB/9 and a 5.62 FIP.

Buckner, meanwhile, was profiled back in February as a possible sleeper in NL-only leagues. The 26-year-old’s work at Triple-A last season translated to a 4.17 FIP at the major league level (per Minor League Splits), and his tenure with Arizona looked far more promising than his 6.40 ERA suggested: Buckner’s xFIP was 3.95.

The former Royals prospect only logged 13 innings with the D-Backs this season, with an 11/5 K/BB ratio and an absurb 17 runs allowed. Back in the PCL, Bucker had 5.48 K/9, 3.45 BB/9, a 53.6 GB% and a 4.18 FIP in 44.1 frames (4.73 major league equivalent FIP). He’s likely no more than a passable fifth starter/middle reliever long-term.

ZiPS predicts 6.22 K/9, 3.53 BB/9 and a 4.65 FIP for Buckner in the bigs. But, according to MLB.com’s Jason Beck, Buckner will report to Triple-A Toledo.

Pittsburgh Pirates acquired LHP Dana Eveland from the Toronto Blue Jays for RHP Ronald Uviedo.

Eveland, 26, ranked as the 7th best prospect in the Brewers’ system (according to Baseball America) prior to the 2006 season. At the time, BA said that Eveland had “a build that evokes David Wells and some of Wells’ pitchability as well.”

These days, however, comparisons between Eveland and Boomer end at the waist line. The 6-1, 240 pound lefty turned in a decent 2008 season with the Oakland A’s, posting a 4.55 xFIP, 6.32 K/9, 4.13 BB/9 and a 48.7% ground ball rate in 168 innings pitched. But he slogged through a mediocre 2009 campaign between Oakland (44 IP, 4.5 K/9, 5.32 BB/9, 56.5 GB%, 5.20 xFIP) and Triple-A Sacramento (124 IP, 6.68 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 53.9 GB%, 4.33 FIP). Over the winter, the A’s sent the out-of-options hurler to the Blue Jays for cash considerations.

In 44.2 frames with the Jays, Eveland again whiffed (4.23 K/9) fewer batters than he walked (5.44 BB/9). He continues to put up strong ground ball figures, with a 52.2 GB%, but that’s about the extent of his virtues — his xFIP sits at 5.71.

He features a four-pitch mix, supplementing a fastball that has declined a couple ticks since 2008 (from 90 MPH to 88 MPH) with an 82-83 MPH slider, a 77 MPH curve and an 82 MPH changeup. Eveland’s Baseball Info Solutions pitch data also shows him mixing in some high-80’s cutters. His slider, curve and change have positive run values during the course of his major league career, but Eveland’s fastball has been thumped for -1.1 runs per 100 pitches thrown.

In Pittsburgh, Eveland will fill the fifth starter’s role opened up by Charlie Morton (shoulder) hitting the DL. ZiPS predicts 5.74 K/9, 4.79 BB/9 and a 4.95 FIP. But I think the bigger question is, can he sing?