• 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. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      Great article. But do you think that the Twins should give up on the only pitcher on the 40 man roster who seems to have a real chance of being an ace next year? I am hoping that they sign him to a multi-year incentive laden deal.
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      If they trade Liriano, the FO not only gives up on '12 but also '13
      There is no way to field a professional pitching staff next year without Liriano. - this is the sorry state of the Rotation.
      So if he goes, might as well try to trade Willingham, Span, and both of the M&M brothers
    1. Blackjack's Avatar
      Blackjack -
      So what kind of a contract will Liriano get in free agency this winter? What would it take for the Twins to sign him to a 2, 3, or 4 year contract?? He drives you crazy with his inconsistency but with his high upside, it could be worth the risk, at the right price. And they could always trade him next year at the trade deadline.... In 20013, if he has truly turned the corner and the Twins still suck, then they could truly get some gooooood prospects.
    1. kirbyelway's Avatar
      kirbyelway -
      Keep him and offer arbitration. If he continues to pitch this way he will turn it down and we will get a comp pick. That pick will probably have higher upside then what we get for him.
    1. twinswon1991's Avatar
      twinswon1991 -
      There is zero chance Frankie signs with the Twins long term. What can the Twins offer: a losing team, terrible pitching coach and a medical staff that causes more injuries than they prevent.

      Frankie must be traded but sadly the game has passed Terry Ryan by and he will sit around and lose him with zero compensatio.
    1. IdahoPilgrim's Avatar
      IdahoPilgrim -
      There is no good answer to this one. If we try to trade him, we probably wouldn't get anything decent in return, for the reasons mentioned in the article. That begs the question, What's the point? I have no interest in trading for spare parts in the hope a miracle happens and one actually develops into a major leaguer. On the other hand, if we try to sign him to an extension, I just can't see him keeping up this pace. Sooner or later Bad Frankie will return. And unless we offer $12.5M (which would be ludicrous) we won't get a comp pick if he becomes a free agent.
    1. DPJ's Avatar
      DPJ -
      There's zero chance that Liriano signs with the Twins unless they overpay for him and that's not a road I'd like to see the Twins go down.

      As for arb you have to make a qualifiing offer to any potential free agents so 1) is Liriano even ranked in the Elias rankings as an A or B?
    1. Cody Christie's Avatar
      Cody Christie -
      Anyone else have the feeling that Liriano will succeed for another organization but if he stays with the Twins, it will be more of the same old Liriano?
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Cody Christie View Post
      Anyone else have the feeling that Liriano will succeed for another organization but if he stays with the Twins, it will be more of the same old Liriano?
      I find it much more likely that he puts together one good stretch, or even entire season, and people around here start throwing themselves off bridges in despair. Only to see the real Frankie show back up with his 6 ERA and inability to hit the plate.

      At which point, of course, another team will tell him exactly the same thing we did (Throw it over the god-damn plate!) only they won't call it "pitch to contact" and we'll label them a genius if he pulls his head out of his butt again.

      A trade of Liriano looks like this - beautiful. Get rid of him before you do something dumb like overpay him to stay.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      I find it much more likely that he puts together one good stretch, or even entire season, and people around here start throwing themselves off bridges in despair. Only to see the real Frankie show back up with his 6 ERA and inability to hit the plate.
      Agreed. Parker brought up Edwin Jackson. I think that's a great comp for Liriano.
    1. DPJ's Avatar
      DPJ -
      Quote Originally Posted by Cody Christie View Post
      Anyone else have the feeling that Liriano will succeed for another organization but if he stays with the Twins, it will be more of the same old Liriano?

      When an organizations entire pitching philosophy is throw the ball over the plate and hopefully down in the zone it wouldn't shock me to see Liriano go kill it elsewhere.

      Hell I'd love to see a real pitching coach get his hands on Liriano and clean up his mechanics.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Yeah, I liked that comp to Jackson. Liriano has the ability to be electric but the inability to be even consistently decent. He's either pretty good for awhile or he's one of the worst in baseball for awhile. Not much middle ground. I really hope other teams are swayed by this stretch against the league's worst offenses.

      I'm not sure anyone can fix his mechanics DPJ. That seems to be predicated on focus and work-ethic. And, well, this is Frankie we're talking about.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Yeah, I liked that comp to Jackson. Liriano has the ability to be electric but the inability to be even consistently decent. He's either pretty good for awhile or he's one of the worst in baseball for awhile. Not much middle ground. I really hope other teams are swayed by this stretch against the league's worst offenses.

      I'm not sure anyone can fix his mechanics DPJ. That seems to be predicated on focus and work-ethic. And, well, this is Frankie we're talking about.
      I don't think this is about Liriano facing cakewalk lineups. He's a different pitcher. He's throwing his slider more often and his mechanics seem to be different.

      But that's not the point. The point is that Liriano can never seem to hold on to the success he's having... Something goes wrong and he unfolds. Is it his head? Muscle memory? Coaching? I have no idea but it's there and it's real.
    1. roger's Avatar
      roger -
      Good analysis Parker, thanks!
    1. BigVin's Avatar
      BigVin -
      Trade Liriano! The Twins are rebuilding for the next year or 2, so why pay an average pitcher 12.5 Million for a .500 ball club or less. I realize the upside to Liriano, hence his last 3 starts, but look at his first 6-8 starts this year. My vote is to trade, and try to get a pitching or middle infield prospect. He will not sign with the Twins at years end.
    1. peterb18's Avatar
      peterb18 -
      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.
    1. peterb18's Avatar
      peterb18 -
      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 Gibsouran 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.
      I must add that I don't think he will want to come back to the Twins. Probably wants to get away from Anderson and the pitch to contact philosophy. A pitcher like him just needs to bust the ball in there and let the natural movement take place. He is at his best when he doesn't think too much and become overwhelmed. He is more of a natural.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by peterb18 View Post
      I must add that I don't think he will want to come back to the Twins. Probably wants to get away from Anderson and the pitch to contact philosophy. A pitcher like him just needs to bust the ball in there and let the natural movement take place. He is at his best when he doesn't think too much and become overwhelmed. He is more of a natural.
      "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.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Is Liriano the most frustrating player in not only the history of this franchise, but in all of baseball as well?

      I have no idea what I want them to do with Frankie as I am sure he will turn to crappy Liriano again if they sign him to a 2 year deal, but I could very well see him turning into CY Young Liriano if he signs elsewhere...like St. Louis..grrr....
    1. gunnarthor's Avatar
      gunnarthor -
      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.
      Agreed. As to the topic, I think we should hold onto right up the deadline, hope he continues to improve and, if he does, get a good deal for him or offer him arbitration (which he might accept). I don't want the Twins to trade him for Dustin Martin/Drew Butera type deal.
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