The reason for this, in my opinion, comes down to risk. There was risk priced into that contract to begin with. If Hammer had a history of health instead of his history, there's no way he signs a 3/21M deal. It's much bigger. 3 months into it, that risk hasn't been mitigated. GMs know they are picking up a guy with 2 1/2 years left on the contract, and odds are good he's going to get hurt... and guess what, he did. That risk is largely mitigated this offseason. He doesn't have to go another year, he has to go a few more months. Teams will pay for that if he's an impact bat, which right now, he is. They'll pay... not a superstar prospect, but something with more upside than what we'd have gotten in 2012. My guess is that it would be a Trevor May type guy (not 2014 Trevor, but December 2012 Trevor).
I know my position in 2012 was not to trade him if the results are underwhelming. What they were offered, we'll never know, but I highly doubt there was a ton on the table for him.
Agreed. Willingham was a big risk in 2012, still having ~17m owed to him. I doubt the return offered was anything of enormous value, or Ryan probably would have taken that deal. After all, he didn't hesitate to trade two (!) centerfielders just a few months later.
And despite Ryan's sometimes apparent faults, I prefer a GM who sits on a player for two long, asking for a good return over a GM who hands away talent like it's no big deal (eg. a certain GM that succeeded Ryan for a few years).
In the end, we'll never know what was offered for Willingham so it's really a moot point. Giving him away for the equivalent of what can be had for him in the next six weeks wouldn't have thrilled the fanbase, just as sitting on him and watching him struggle through 2013 didn't thrill the fanbase.