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  • What Would a Francisco Liriano Trade Look Like?

    Ever since his demotion to the bullpen, Francisco Liriano has been back to his new-old self.

    In 37.1 innings, Liriano has posted a much improved 2.41 ERA, limited hitters to a .157 average against and has struck out 40 while walking just 14 thanks to rekindling his relationship with his dirty, dirty slider.

    Nevertheless, even with the improvement, the Twins front office has to be considering moving the enigmatic starter at the upcoming trade deadline because of the current state of the organization and the $12 million price tag required to offer him in arbitration in order to secure a compensatory draft pick. If the Twins are committed to rebuilding and strengthening the organization for several years instead of just next year, trading the rejuvenated Liriano makes complete sense.

    The question is what sort of return could the Twins expect at the deadline?


    FoxSports.com’s Jon Morosi tweeted yesterday that his club sources told him that officials expect “robust” interest in Liriano based on his recent performance. With the added Wild Card berth granted this year, clearly more teams will consider themselves buyers rather than sellers and the deadline. And, if what Morosi said is accurate, Liriano’s value is elevated by a number of clubs competing for his service and the Twins return should be expectedly more substantial.

    Of course, it is not quite that cut-and-dry. For starters, Liriano’s impending free agency undoubtedly drives his return down. After all, we’re not talking a Cliff Lee/CC Sabathia-type track record that would merit a team unloading multiple prospects for the half-season rental. Liriano has just six consecutive starts in which he’s pitched well. Furthermore, even though he has not shown it this season, he remains an injury concern.

    Since 2001, there seems to be just a few trades that occurred at the non-waiver deadline that are comparable to the Twins if they choose to move Liriano by himself (if they add players to the trade, all bets are off).

    On July 28th, 2010, the 56-44 Chicago White Sox were clinging to a one-game lead over the Twins and looking to further distance themselves by adding some starting pitching. Sox GM Kenny Williams targeted the Arizona Diamondbacks’ hard-throwing right-handed, 26-year-old Edwin Jackson.

    Jackson, who had worked 397.1 innings with a 27-20 record along with a 3.99 ERA the previous two seasons, was not finding the National League nearly as accommodating as Tampa Bay or Detroit. In 21 starts with the Arizona club in 2010, he went 6-10 with a 5.16 ERA while walking four batters per nine innings – his highest rate since 2007. Despite that performance, Chicago’s lust for a winner and Jackson’s recent success combined with a 94 mile per hour fastball incited Williams to pull the trigger by sending their third and eighth highest ranking prospects according to Baseball America in right-handed starter Dan Hudson and lefty David Holmberg.

    Hudson has been extremely valuable in Arizona, going 26-14 in 52 starts with a very nice 3.47 ERA while striking out 273 and walking just 78 in 345.1 innings pitched. Holmberg, meanwhile, has turned 20 years old this year but is a fast-moving prospect in the Dback’s system. In his stop at high-A Visalia he struck out 86 batters in 78.1 innings and was bumped to AA Mobile.

    What’s the likelihood of this scenario playing out for the Twins? I wouldn’t hold my breath. Unlike Liriano, Jackson was under contract at the time and due to make a reasonable sum of $8.35 million in 2011 and he had also never showed much injury potential making his acquisition seemingly less risky than Liriano. Still, never underestimate a GM who reeks of desperation for a winner, as Williams proved, who was willing to flip a productive and club-controlled pitcher for one they felt could contribute immediately.

    If the Jackson-for-Hudson trade is at one end of the potential spectrum (the “hey, wouldn’t it be great if…” end of the spectrum) at the other end is the Kyle Lohse-to-Philly trade in 2007 (the “hey, this feels about right” end).

    That year, the Phillies, who had finished second in the NL East for three consecutive seasons and were denied playoff berths, wanted to improve their starting rotation. Curiously enough, they tapped into Cincinnati’s Lohse who had been traded from Minnesota to the Reds one year ago to the day.

    In Lohse, the Phillies were receiving a 28-year-old right-hander who had seen a steady decline in his performance since his solid 2003 season – although his record while in Cincinnati was more reflective of his lack of run support, receiving below average offense in his time with the Reds. In exchange, Philadelphia shipped a left-handed pitcher who was tearing up the lower ranks of their system: 23-year-old Matt Maloney.

    Although Lohse is nothing like Liriano in terms of style – Liriano’s ceiling and floor is wildly different than Lohse’s had been up to that point - their situations share similarities. For instance, when traded, Lohse would be paid a prorated share of his $4.2 million salary, not all too different from Liriano’s $5.5 million. Both were reasonable contracts to assume but potential trade partners likely recognize that the current teams (the Reds and Twins respectively) were not planning on retaining either pitcher.

    As Twins fans know by now, Maloney never quite panned out but back in 2007, he was an interesting commodity for Cincinnati. As Baseball America pointed out, Maloney had just come off a season in the South Atlantic League in which he was named Pitcher of the Year thanks to leading the league in wins (16), innings (169) and strikeouts (180) and finishing a close second in ERA (2.03). Since they were going to lose Lohse to free agency likely anyways, landing an intriguing arm in exchange seemed like a fair compensation.

    Obviously, it is hard to predict what the market with do for Liriano with a month remaining to the deadline. If he continues his current output, it is easy to see more teams jumping into the fray (such as the Toronto Blue Jays who Nick Nelson wrote about today) and perhaps push offers up towards the Daniel Hudson level. However, if he falters a bit, his stock likely drops to the Maloney-prospect-gamble range.
    This article was originally published in blog: What Would a Francisco Liriano Trade Look Like? started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 122 Comments
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      There's a few things to consider with this, the biggest is whether the Twins view themselves as contenders next year.. If they do, they are going to need Liriano. I'm going to assume that while they may publicly say they are, in private, they are writing off next year and will trade him, hopefully for a front line starter in A+/AA to complement the crop of hitting prospects that are coming through the system. If they can get that for him, they should move him in a heartbeat.

      I'd be leary of offering him too big a pay day... His history is eratic enough that he will not likely be a team's top aquisition. If the Twins offer him the 12M to ensure a draft pick, they may be shocked when he accepts arb with the hope of having a second good season and getting a payday.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      It is good news that he looks like a player with value again.

      The Twins can set the bar for a Dan Hudson level pitching prospect. BBA had Hudson at #66 and Chicago's #3 entering 2010.

      It may not be reasonable that they will get that offer. In that case, they can offer him a 12.4 million/1 year contract. That level will guarantee compensation of two picks if he chooses free agency.

      His talent is worth the risk that he will accept the one year deal.

      With Liriano, any decision is a risk. The Twins may turn down an offer of middling prospects and then watch him fall apart or come up injured after the trade deadline. At that point, offering a compensation level deal wouldn't make sense and the Twins would be left empty handed.

      I would hold out for a good pitching prospect and risk the reasonable possibility that Twins will end up with nothing.
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      Quote Originally Posted by peterb18 View Post
      I think they should keep him. If they re-sign Liriano, sign Baker(who has a real live arm when healthy), hope that Gibson is ready, and then sign Grienke as your fourth starter. That would be 4 strong arms with good stuff. Then have Diamond as your other starter--that is a pretty good staff. A lot of big ifs! Also, I think most fans want a competitive team next year. Not a repeat of the last two seasons.
      Re-sign Baker and Liriano??????? LUDICROUS!!! That would take $20mill. of our (hopefully) 100mill. payroll not counting Mauer. Neither has shown he is capable of being an ace (Verlander, CC level) for more than a month at a time. (and those months are few and far between). If we did re-sign both, there would be absolutely ZERO dollars for any free agent.

      Trade Liriano for any two minor leaguers and whatever else we can get. Maybe like Lohse he will have ONE good year elsewhere. Maybe not--but only one. No GM is gonna give us much for Frankie. No GM is gonna give Frankie a $10 million contract for 2013 that Twins have to.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by DAM DC Twins Fans View Post
      Re-sign Baker and Liriano??????? LUDICROUS!!! That would take $20mill. of our (hopefully) 100mill. payroll not counting Mauer. Neither has shown he is capable of being an ace (Verlander, CC level) for more than a month at a time. (and those months are few and far between). If we did re-sign both, there would be absolutely ZERO dollars for any free agent.

      Trade Liriano for any two minor leaguers and whatever else we can get. Maybe like Lohse he will have ONE good year elsewhere. Maybe not--but only one. No GM is gonna give us much for Frankie. No GM is gonna give Frankie a $10 million contract for 2013 that Twins have to.
      No way would Baker and Liriano get 20mm on the free agent market.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      The only way to keep Baker is to pick up his option for about 9 million. If allowed to be a free agent, he will sign elsewhere. While that will likely be less than 9 million, he will no longer be a Twin.

      If Liriano continues to pitch well, the only way to have a shot a keeping him is to offer the compensation level of 12.4 million.

      The point is that in order for the Twins to keep these two, they will need to budget 21 million. The likelihood that they will get less in the market is irrelevant, because they won't stay with the Twins for less.

      The only good side of both of these deals is they will be one year commitments to players with an up side. The risks are overwhelmingly obvious.
    1. boney's Avatar
      boney -
      If they get a good offer anytime befroe the trade deadline the should jump on it imo. Liriano's biggest problem (even bigger than his mechanics) has always been his own head. It could take one bad inning, say an error, a walk and a bloop double to ruin the value he's built up with these last few starts.
    1. PopRiveter's Avatar
      PopRiveter -
      I think you could realistically offer both Baker an Liriano a low-end, 2 year deal with incentives. Maybe $7mil + incentives/yr for Frankie. For Baker, offer $4+incentives for 2013 and $7+incentives for 2014. If the pitchers outperform the base rate, they earn what they believe they are potentially worth, but the club would limit risk with pitchers who are currently known by everyone in baseball to be high-risk. If it takes more than the above to sign either of them, you have to look elsewhere.
    1. StormJH1's Avatar
      StormJH1 -
      About 2 months ago, this question seemed absurd because Liriano's ERA was in the neighborhood of 10.00. Now he looks like a Top 25 starter again. I don't get it. I think Twins fans have accepted the fact that he'll have some degree of success wherever he ends up. The guy is in his 5th season after returning from Tommy John, and in only one of those seasons (2010) has he put together "front of the rotation" numbers.

      Even worse (and this sticks in my head more than the numbers), he completely fell apart in September in both 2008 and 2010 against mediocre AL Central opponents, in critical games down the stretch when the rest of the rotation seemed to be doing well. He's a total headcase, and while there's clearly something there, I would much rather have the budget flexibility for signing other starters or improving positional players.

      Ironically (and one of the reasons some are tempted to keep him), if there was a type of free agent pitcher the Twins should target this offseason, it would be a slightly younger version of Liriano: A post-hype guy who seems to have something left in the tank, but has been marred by inconsistency to go with his considerable upside.
    1. Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
      Jeremy Nygaard -
      We all like the Edwin Jackson comps, but think no one will give Liriano $10m? Jackson has a year of service time on Liriano (so one more payday, essentially) and got $11m in his first go-around in free agency (granted he earned more his arbitration years). I also read on other sites (because TwinsDaily wasn't up yet), where many - though not all - would have endorsed giving Jackson the contract the Nationals did.

      I'm not trying to say its a no-brainer to keep Liriano for the rest of year and hope he accepts arbitration. But I think there are worse ways to potentially spend $12.5m. I would take the risk, under the belief that there is a 25% chance he accepts and a 75% chance he wants to test the waters.

      Liriano has probably earned between $8-9m for next year on the FA market... and if he continues to pitch like he has been since May 30, he could earn a lot more...
    1. biggentleben's Avatar
      biggentleben -
      Quote Originally Posted by SpiritofVodkaDave View Post
      Is Liriano the most frustrating player in not only the history of this franchise, but in all of baseball as well?
      He's the pitching version of Jeff Francoeur.
    1. peterb18's Avatar
      peterb18 -
      Quote Originally Posted by SpiritofVodkaDave View Post
      No way would Baker and Liriano get 20mm on the free agent market.
      I agree with the above.
      The only way I see a competitve pitching staff for the next two years is to sign Liriano, Baker and hope that Gibson develops. From what I see there are no potential 1 or 2 starters in the farm system. Otherwise it is going to a rough next couple of years.
    1. peterb18's Avatar
      peterb18 -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      "Pitch to contact" = "Throw strikes" = "Bust the ball in the zone". That's all it is. You can argue he needs to hear a different term for it, but they are all the same.

      Twins have gotten WAY too much flack for that advice to Liriano from day 1.
      Leviathan,
      No they are not the same. If you ever pitched a lot of games you would know there is a big difference. However, only a few pitchers can pitch this way--a guy like Liriano can. Maybe the only way he can pitch. There is a big difference between throwing strikes and pitching to contact than just trying to bust the ball. With the later you can just try to get relaxed with your arm and rock back and just try to hit the plate and let natural movement take over. The type of movement is determined by your arm angle. Over the top is best for strikeouts. Like Bert always says," set them up with fastball and the strikeout pitch is the curve, or slider in the dirt". If you told Sandy Kofax to pitch to contact he would be in a lot of trouble. Now a guy like Radke, that is a different story.
    1. jctwins's Avatar
      jctwins -
      Quote Originally Posted by peterb18 View Post
      Leviathan,
      No they are not the same. If you ever pitched a lot of games you would know there is a big difference. However, only a few pitchers can pitch this way--a guy like Liriano can. Maybe the only way he can pitch. There is a big difference between throwing strikes and pitching to contact than just trying to bust the ball. With the later you can just try to get relaxed with your arm and rock back and just try to hit the plate and let natural movement take over. The type of movement is determined by your arm angle. Over the top is best for strikeouts. Like Bert always says," set them up with fastball and the strikeout pitch is the curve, or slider in the dirt". If you told Sandy Kofax to pitch to contact he would be in a lot of trouble. Now a guy like Radke, that is a different story.
      peterb18,
      I think you might have a point, but it's pretty much just semantics.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      It is not a given it will take $12.5M to sign Liriano for 2013. That's just the offer the Twins would have to make under the new CBA to get compensation if he signs elsewhere.

      It is also not a given he would need to be signed to a 1 year deal.

      I remain convinced the Twins should have signed Liriano to a 3 yr deal last winter, when they could have done so cheaply, and remain convinced they should be looking to sign him to a 3 yr deal now, when it would be slightly less cheap, but doable. Liriano would take a 3 yr deal, at something like $21-$24/3.

      Where else are the Twins going to get a starter with higher upside over the next 3 yrs? What would you rather see them spend that money on? There is nothing in the upper minors, save the possibility Gibson or Wimmers comes back to be effective in 2014 or so, and little chance the Twins are going to spend the type of money necessary to acquire top line starting pitching.

      I would agree if he refuses a long term contract, then maybe you have to consider dealing him. But the "dump him for anything" crowd is just completely idiotic, and trading him before trying to get him signed to a reasonable long term deal is only slightly less stupid.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      To combat Morosi's point, Buster Olney spoke to some evaluators who were "skittish" about pursuing Liriano and favored the Cubs' Matt Garza in spite of his higher salary. Can't say I don't disagree.

      http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2012/0...medium=twitter
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Parker Hageman View Post
      To combat Morosi's point, Buster Olney spoke to some evaluators who were "skittish" about pursuing Liriano and favored the Cubs' Matt Garza in spite of his higher salary. Can't say I don't disagree.

      http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2012/0...medium=twitter

      I'd favor Garza as well.
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Quote Originally Posted by peterb18 View Post
      Leviathan,
      No they are not the same. If you ever pitched a lot of games you would know there is a big difference. However, only a few pitchers can pitch this way--a guy like Liriano can. Maybe the only way he can pitch. There is a big difference between throwing strikes and pitching to contact than just trying to bust the ball. With the later you can just try to get relaxed with your arm and rock back and just try to hit the plate and let natural movement take over. The type of movement is determined by your arm angle. Over the top is best for strikeouts. Like Bert always says," set them up with fastball and the strikeout pitch is the curve, or slider in the dirt". If you told Sandy Kofax to pitch to contact he would be in a lot of trouble. Now a guy like Radke, that is a different story.
      Was it intentional that you picked THE guy as your example of a non-pitch to contact player that also happens to have given THE pro-pitch to contact quote? The irony is fantastic either way, although I'm partial to the flavor where it wasn't.

      It's been claimed (I don't know the veracity) that for a while Liriano was given a target down the middle and was told to just fire the ball over the plate to let his natural movement thrive. That...didn't work.

      Congrats on having pitched a lot of games.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Baker? He just had TJ surgery, he won't be effective until 2014. I don't get how anyone thinks that makes sense. They aren't contending next year, trade them all. Where has anyone said "dump him for anything", where has anyone said that? Straw man arguements are weak.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by peterb18 View Post
      Leviathan,
      No they are not the same. If you ever pitched a lot of games you would know there is a big difference. However, only a few pitchers can pitch this way--a guy like Liriano can. Maybe the only way he can pitch. There is a big difference between throwing strikes and pitching to contact than just trying to bust the ball. With the later you can just try to get relaxed with your arm and rock back and just try to hit the plate and let natural movement take over. The type of movement is determined by your arm angle. Over the top is best for strikeouts. Like Bert always says," set them up with fastball and the strikeout pitch is the curve, or slider in the dirt". If you told Sandy Kofax to pitch to contact he would be in a lot of trouble. Now a guy like Radke, that is a different story.
      Why are you responding like this is a civil war correspondence?

      You're talking about the difference in these approaches as mechanical. Which would work for your argument if the Twins had tried to change his mechanics. They didn't. The "pitch to contact" issue came up two springs ago when he was throwing 100 pitches in barely four innings. He wasn't trusting his stuff and throwing strikes. So the Twins labeled it "pitch to contact" to get him to start throwing the ball and trusting his movement. If you throw it to where they will swing...your stuff will cause missed bats.

      Your example also falls apart because no matter if you're Koufax, Johan Santana, Randy Johnson, or Fransisco Liriano - you don't strike people out if you don't throw strikes. Guys will just take pitches and beat you that way. To put it more simply - you can't get strike three if you can't get strikes one and two first. Hitters aren't dumb. Hell, AJ said it on Barreiro yesterday - the gameplan with Frankie is to see if he'll do the work for you. If he's in the zone - you're in trouble. If he's not, you're going to beat him around.

      And, for the record, Nick N., Phil Mackey, and others have confirmed that the "pitch to contact" criticisms are nonsense. I'm not saying anything that isn't well known. I just happened to be on that same bandwagon from the get-go.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      Where else are the Twins going to get a starter with higher upside over the next 3 yrs? What would you rather see them spend that money on?.
      I would rather see Baker, even off of TJ surgery, make 4/32 than Liriano. As Storm posted above. We're five years removed from Liriano's surgery and only once has he posted the numbers you insist are possible. And in at least two full seasons he has been arguably one of the worst starters in all of baseball.

      At what point of inconsistency (and I would argue - reliable awfulness) does a long term contract not become a bad move?
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