Scouting The Trade Market: Francisco Liriano

6/28-7/1 Series Preview: Chicago White Sox
A look at the unlikeliest of sellers

The Yankees have been hit hard by the injury bug this season, and that was even before they lost CC Sabathia (left adductor strain) and Andy Pettitte (fractured left ankle) in the span of about five hours yesterday. The two veteran left-handers join Michael Pineda (torn labrum) as starting pitchers on the disabled list, meaning the team’s minor league pitching depth — specifically the trio of David Phelps, Adam Warren, and D.J. Mitchell — will really be tested in the coming weeks.

Thankfully Sabathia is scheduled to come back right after the All-Star break, so he’ll only be out of action for two starts. Pettitte’s injury could keep him out until September and is obviously much more severe. Brian Cashman made it clear that the Yankees will cycle through internal options first, but a trade before the deadline is always possible. While Zack Greinke and Matt Garza grab all of the attention, a deal for a smaller name and lesser pitcher seems more likely. That would include Francisco Liriano of the Twins, who has been on the block for about three years now. We last broke down the 28-year-old southpaw as a trade candidate over the winter, so let’s take an updated look…

The Pros

  • Since rejoining Minnesota’s rotation last month, Liriano has pitching to a 2.41 ERA (2.39 FIP) with 40 strikeouts and 14 walks in 37.1 innings across six starts. He’s held batters to a miniscule .157/.248/.236 batting line and has been simply dominant.
  • Liriano’s fastball velocity — both two-seamer and four-seamer — has bounced back this season, with more than a mile-an-hour returning after a similarly-sized drop last year. His slider and changeup have been unchanged for years, though he has scaled back usage of the latter this season.
  • Even when he’s struggled through the years, Liriano has always been a dominant strikeout and ground ball pitcher. He’s at 8.83 K/9 (22.4 K%) and 45.1% grounders this season, right in line with his career marks: 8.93 K/9 (23.3 K%) and 48.0% grounders.
  • The left-handed Liriano is as tough as it gets on same-side hitters. He’s held fellow lefties to a .205 wOBA this season with an 11.42 K/9 (33.9 K%) and 55.9% grounders. Just dominant. His career numbers — .268 wOBA against with 9.61 K/9 (26.0 K%) and 60.6% grounders — are just as strong.
  • A pure rental with limited risk, Liriano will earn $5.5M this season before becoming a free agent this winter. That works out to about $917k per month from here on out.

The Cons

  • The reason Liriano had to rejoin the rotation last month was because he was so bad earlier in the year that he had to be demoted to the bullpen. He pitched to a 9.45 ERA (6.55 FIP) with nearly as many walks (19) as strikeouts (21) in his first six starts and 26.2 innings before moving to relief. In five relief appearances, Liriano posted a 4.91 ERA (3.47 FIP) with seven walks and nine strikeouts in 7.1 innings.
  • For all those strikeouts and grounders, Liriano continues to hurt himself with walks. His 5.05 BB/9 (12.8 BB%) is a career worst and the fourth highest in baseball (min. 70 IP). Last season he was at 5.02 BB/9 (12.7 BB%), so we’re now over 200 innings (205.2 to be exact) with a walk rate over 5.0 BB/9 (12.5 BB%).
  • He might shut down lefties, but righties are a different story. Batters of the opposite hand have tagged Liriano for a .357 wOBA this season, and his strong strikeout rate (8.00 K/9 and 19.4 K%) is negated by a terrible walk rate (5.67 BB/9 and 13.7 BB%). His career performance isn’t a ton better (.328 wOBA against).
  • Liriano’s injury history is quite lengthy. Since having Tommy John surgery in 2007, he’s missed time with forearm and elbow swelling (2009), shoulder inflammation (2011), and a shoulder strain (2011).
  • Thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, any team that trades for him will not be eligible for draft pick compensation.

The Twins are certifiably terrible at 30-44 with baseball’s worst run differential (-95), and a few weeks ago they probably would have given Liriano away from free. He’s rebuilt some value since moving back into the rotation, but not enough to land Minnesota a quality prospect. The last three or four years aren’t going to be washed away by six nice starts, teams will still be skeptical about his ability to solidify their rotation down the stretch.

I am intrigued by Liriano’s potential as a shutdown left-handed reliever, which is a pretty great fallback option should the starting thing not work out (again). Then again, if the Yankees are going to trade for pitching help, I feel that they should trade for someone they know will be a clear upgrade and Liriano just isn’t reliable enough to say that. If the Twins are open to giving him away for a Grade-C prospect and salary relief while the Warrens and Phelpses and Mitchells prove ineffective, then the Bombers should probably get involved. Cashman & Co. won’t rush into any kind of panic move and even if they were, Liriano’s not a guy you acquire at all costs. The potential is tantalizing because you know there’s ace ability in there, but it doesn’t come out often enough.

6/28-7/1 Series Preview: Chicago White Sox
A look at the unlikeliest of sellers
  • J6takish

    Had he been developed by literally any organization other than the Twins, I’m convinced he would be a top 5 starter and a household name

    • RetroRob

      The Twins are good at developing pitchers. Their problem, however, has been on the type of pitchers they’ve drafted. Wrong mix. Too heavy on pitch-to-contact guys like Baker than power arms.

  • Kosmo

    OK Mike who do you see as a C- prospect ? I`d hand over Nunez or Cervelli for him if the need arises.

    • Bwahahahaha

      No way in hell would I give up Nunez for him. He will make Yankees version of Burnett look like an ace in the AL East.

      • Kosmo

        What´s the big deal about Nunez ? He has no future with NY and is a D liability. Yanks can always find utility infielders.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          If he gets his defense together, which was the plan in sending him down, he absolutely does have a future in NY.

          • Preston

            Yeah I don’t know about trading Nunez. Jeter is 38 and I don’t want to be stuck with Ramiro Pena playing everyday if something happens. I’d rather trade a higher cieling prospect who is farther away from the bigs. Seeing as our lower minors are stacked and our upper system is pretty bereft.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              He can hit. He’ll still be relatively young when Jeter hangs is up, and the MiLB guys we’d hope would take that spot may not even be ready then, if ever. It’s about the defense to me.

              I was a floating bank teller for a while when I was in college, which meant I would float from branch to branch when someone was needed. There was a problem: I was a really, really bad bank teller. That made me the worst possible choice for floater.

              I probably would never become a better teller, but you can become a better defender at your position.

              • Peter North

                But what does your mother-in-law think of Nuny?

                • Robinson Tilapia

                  I don’t think she likes him. She may have liked Pena, but the attachment wasn’t strong.

                  She hates Russell Martin. She’s convinced Jorge could still go out there and get the job done and that Girardi holds a grudge against him from when they played together. We argue about that one.

              • jjyank

                I’m a bank teller (for now). Sounds like you were a difference machine :P

                • Robinson Tilapia

                  I had two $1000 differences within a week. I quit on the spot because I knew what was coming.

                  I’m still fully convinced it was more of a computer error than anything else.

                  • jjyank

                    That’s really bad. I’ve never had more than $80. But computer errors do happen.

          • Kosmo

            IF Big if.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              Sometimes, it’s a big “if.”

  • Reggie C.

    A left handed AJ Burnett … PASS.

  • MannyGeee

    god, Liriano is the ultimate love hate relationship for me, trade candidate wise. Some days he makes all the sense in the world, other days he is the worst of ideas.

    Meh, as a pure rental with little to no prospect cost, I say pull the trigger. we could use another LOOGY in September, Joe’s binder will explode!

  • DM

    Cash was WFAN — sounded very quiet and content with internal options. And he said he knows the asking prices are sky high before even engaging with other teams. Liriano won’t be given away for C- prospects; every team wants Sanchez, Williams and every other real prospect in any deal. Also, he’s expecting 2 months for Andy. 6 weeks healing; 2 weeks building up.

    • Kosmo

      best case scenario Pettitte won´t be back until early September.He needs to build strength in his leg and then rehab starts all in 2 weeks ??

      • DM

        I’m just the messenger. Maybe the belief is that Andy can start long tossing at some point in those first 6 weeks.

        • Preston

          Andy will probably do a lot during his rehab to keep himself in shape. He won’t need as much time to come back as he did at the start of the season because he took a whole season off then. However at his age sometimes it takes a little longer for injuries to heal, so maybe it’ll be 7-8 weeks rather than six.

          • 28 this year

            problem is there isn’t a whole lot he can do to keep his arm in shape because he can’t put any weight on his legs and I dont think he should be throwing a whole lot with nothing but his arm, that seems like a recipe for arm injuries

            • Preston

              You can work out in a pool, and I agree you shouldn’t throw, but you can lift. So he won’t be starting from scratch at least.

    • RetroRob

      They may want Sanchez and Williams in any deal, but that doesn’t mean the Yankees trade Sanchez and Williams in any deal. If they plan on moving those chips, the level of pitcher increases substantially above Liriano who is unreliable and a three-month rental. The Twins know that, so they will try and shoot for a B-level, or B-minus-level prospect, from some team, but may have to settle for a C-level.

      There’s no reason for the Twins to keep Liriano. Unlikely they re-sign him, unless Liriano generates zero interest on the market, which won’t happen. They also can’t justify holding on to him for prospects since they would have to make a qualifying offer of approximately $12.5 million, if I remember the new CBA rules correctly. No way they’ll do that as Liriano will just accept it!

      I can’t envision a scenario where Liriano is not moved. Question is what team will give the Twins the most for him.

  • TheOneWhoKnocks

    With Andy out 2 months he’s an intriguing option. I’m all for waiting a couple weeks to see how Garcia and Warren perform before deciding if a move is necessary, and I’m sure thats the path the Yanks will take.

    CC will be back pretty soon and our depth looks much better once he’s sitting back at the top.

  • Preston

    He’s a cheap rental, has huge upside, and could be effective out of the bullpen if things don’t work out. As long as the asking price is low I’d take him.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    He’s an interesting option as a reclamation project, but Axisa isn’t actually starting to write “scouting the trade market” posts in order to discuss reclamation projects. Pass. Let the kids and sweaty people play.

  • Bavarian Yankee

    no, no, no, no. That has disaster written all over it. He’s not really an upgrade, not even with CC and Andy on the DL. Heck, I’d rather bring back AJ before trading for Liriano. There are a lot of pitchers out there that are worth watching, Liriano was scratched off that list a looooong time ago.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I seriously would throw Evan DeLuca out there for shits and giggles before we took back the rest of AJ’s contract.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        (but would obviously prefer neither option)

  • Manny’s BanWagon

    I wouldn’t trade anything of value for Liriano. There’s just as much of a chance that he goes in the tank and is unpitchable for the 2nd half as there is that he makes a contribution to the team.

    I agree with Robinson and say go with the kids.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Switched screen names back that quickly, eh?

  • mike

    i have no confidence that any of the guys at AAA ( and in private monents the same fear for the guys at AA) will be anything else than cannon fodder at the ML level.

    there doesn’t appear to be a tremendous upside as per the scouting reports on the AAA guys, but Liriano can- on occasion – be absolutely dominant.

    Trade for him, even at the expense of one of these hopefully-league average AAA guys, and hope to catch lightening in a bottle for a few weeks where he continues his run of dominance. If not, put him in the pen

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Well I sure hope you trust the AA pitchers less than the AAA pitchers…

      • mike

        I qualified the statement as “will be” to explain when they will actually make it to the majors as opposed to their current abilities if called up today….

  • BK2ATL

    I’m ambivalent to Liriano. He’s pitched well recently, and has ace-ability, just pretty up and down. He might do in a pinch, if the price is right.

    I’d offer the Twins salary relief plus DJ Mitchell or Whelan, Kevin Russo or Ronnier Mustelier, and Kyle Higashioka type of package.

    • AP

      3 guys??? I wouldn’t do it for that price.

      • BK2ATL

        3 guys that really have no future in the system in NY. The AA catcher (Higashioka)would allow for a Sanchez promotion. Might as well use them in trade.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          I’d disagree with Mitchell has no future with the team. If they took Whelan and Russo, I’d do it in a second, but I doubt two ultra-fringy guys for a reclamation project happens.

          • BK2ATL

            Mitchell is currently 4th in line in the Yanks’ call-up pecking order behind Warren, Phelps, Whelan and Ortiz. That doesn’t include Banuelos and/or Betances, if either turns it around.

            Where’s his future in the MLB rotation or bullpen? He’s not better than the other options I listed. Might as well move him while there is some value, along with the other fringe players.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              Whelan and Ortiz? Woah. Where did you get that from? I sincerly doubt that’s the case.

              I think Mitchell would be every bit in the same conversation as Phelps and Warren going into next year.

              • BK2ATL

                Like everyone else, just pulled it outta my culo. Jajaja!!!

                Ortiz has MLB experience, no matter if it’s good experience or bad, something that we learned comes into play in the Bronx with Mitre and Gaudin. He’s pitched decently in AAA. Only reason I put him in the mix.

                Whelan could be a relief option, IF they decide to go that way.

                Mitchell is the same pitcher, and in the same predicament as Phelps and Warren. We learned from last year with the Nova/Noesi thing that Cashman would be willing to call him up, build value, and package him. Phelps and Warren would have to flame out first, then Ortiz after the youngsters don’t impress, before Mitchell gets the call.

  • AP

    Fore a grade C prospect, I’d pull the trigger. We all know he has the stuff and is capable of rattling off 5 great starts in a row. Brett Marshall? Pack your bags, kid. I don’t see him ever contributing much, if anything, to the ML team, so why not send him to Minnesota. If Liriano busts, oh well. Plan B is to stick him in the bullpen and plan C is to cut your losses.

    NY has benefitted from high-upside, low-risk rolls of the dice before, most recently being Freddy and Colon last season. I see this as having a higher upside than both of those.

  • RI$P FTW

    Why would the Yanks even be looking? I read in yesterday’s RAB threads that the Yanks are going to ‘pull it together’ and ‘really do this’.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      And those in that camp are exactly the people you continue to see pulling for the Yankees to stay put for the time being.

      Are you still rooting for the Yankees, or did they not do enough to keep your fandom with the injuries?

    • jjyank

      Why would the Yankees be looking at pitchers when two of them just got injured? Hmmm…I’ll let you figure that one out.

      • jim p

        Right? You’d figure someone in authority would have noticed the tendency for pitchers to get hurt by now. Why keep repeating the same formula over and over? Have nothing but hitters, have each hitter pitch a game. Go to the 25-man rotation. Everybody’s rested, every game we’re giving a new look to the opposition. Can’t miss.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          WHEN’S MY TURN?!?!?!?!?!

          Nick Swisher

  • LiterallyFigurative

    It would depend in what you have to give up. We should give them C to D caliber prospects, as we are actually doing THEM a favor by taking Liriano and his remaining salary.

  • Fin

    The only way I see the Yankees getting Liriano is as bascially a salary dump. I dont see them giving up any real prospects for him. I dont see any problem with taking him as a low risk high reward type of player. All that being said, I would be suprised if the Yankees ended up with him. I think a team that has a greater need for pitching and that doesnt have a shot at the playoffs all the time, would probably give up a real prospect on the chance that Lariano could get hot and carry them home or at least be a solid contributor for them down the streatch. Some teams will see the risk as worth it while its simply not worth it for the Yankees.

  • Kramerica Industries

    De Aza has been a pure pain in the ass tonight.