"This is an opportunity I never could've dreamt of," Willis said. "For me and my family, this is truly a blessing."
His contract takes Willis, whom the Tigers picked up in an eight-player trade earlier this month with the Florida Marlins, through his arbitration years. If he stays healthy and pitches as well as he's done through most of his career, he'll be eligible for free agency after the 2010 season, said Matt Sosnick, Willis' agent.
"The three-year deal was something we were both comfortable with," Sosnick said. "The issue became: what was the dollar amount going to be?"
Sosnick stressed that Willis wanted the security of a longer-term deal. He also wanted to end the constant rumors about his being traded, rumors that had dogged Willis for the past couple of seasons in Miami.
"He was consistent on getting a deal done when he came here," Sosnick said. "It's a client's choice."
The framework for the deal was hammered out over the past week, which the two sides agreed to Wednesday. It became final after Willis went through a physical. The Tigers announced the deal with a press conference at Comerica Park.
Signing Willis to such a deal shows that the Tigers believe he's a complement to the other young pitchers on their staff. He will join Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson, as well as veteran warhorse Kenny Rogers, in filling out manager Jim Leyland's rotation next season.
"They've shown a lot of love to take a chance and even offer me a deal," Willis said. "It shows how much respect they have for me and my abilities.
"So, again, I'm gonna do everything I can to not only win a championship but uphold this team and make them proud."
With Willis signed, Dombrowski can set his sights on All-Star third baseman Miguel Cabrera, another piece in the trade with the Marlins.