Trading Liriano Worth Exploring, But The Timing Just Isn’t Right

The Minnesota Twins acquired Francisco Liriano as a minor league pitcher, basically a throw-in when they shipped catcher A.J. Pierzynski to the San Francisco Giants for pitchers Boof Bonser and Joe Nathan.

Francisco Liriano
Minnesota Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano bounced back in a big way in 2010. Associated Press photo

Arm injuries aside, this was highway robbery by any measure of baseball trades.

Problem is, those types of trades don’t happen very often.

Minneapolis Star Tribune writer Joe Christensen penned an interesting commentary piece for the Strib that reports that Twins officials are pretty open to the idea of trading Liriano during spring training.

The rationale is two-fold from what I can tell: 1) The Twins have depth in their rotation (although we’ll get to that). 2) Liriano’s value might never be higher.

It is true that Liriano had an outstanding season in 2010. He won 14 games, posted an ERA of 3.62 and struck out 201 batters. From a “stuff” perspective, he’s the nastiest of the Twins starters.

However, trading Liriano would also mean, in my opinion, raising a white flag of sorts on 2011. Yeah, in the AL Central, there’s always an opportunity to contend. But handing rotation spots to disappointing starters like Kevin Slowey and Nick Blackburn – after having already handed starting jobs to middle infielders Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Alexi Casilla – adds to the team’s question marks.

Of course, trading Liriano means there would be a return. But what kind of return would the Twins get for him? Let’s remember he’s not that far removed from Tommy John surgery, and he posted an absolutely abysmal season in 2009.

The Twins are skeptical about his long-term future, but so is everyone else. If the Twins could get the kind of loaded prospect return that the Chicago Cubs gave to Tampa Bay to get Matt Garza, then maybe it’s worth it. But I’m not convinced that would be the case.

My opinion is the Twins are better off hanging onto Liriano – who is under team control through 2012 – until at least July and seeing where they are at in the division race.

2 Responses

  1. Unless they can get a huge Garza-like package for Liriano, which I doubt they would, I don’t even want to see them entertain the idea. Unlike the rest of the pitching staff, Liriano has the qualities of an ace pitcher with the exception of his mental makeup. I have seen times where Liriano gets in a bind and starts to crumble before our eyes on the mound. Confidence can be worked on and with his velocity coming back and his slider becoming close to its nasty 2006 self, I hope that his mental makeup will work itself out. Not to mention the fact that he is a lefty and led the team in strike outs last season.

    I read a commentary about trading Liriano for Michael Young, which would be one of the worst lopsided trades ever. Sure there is question marks in the middle infield, but putting in an average 36 year old who is on the decline is not going to make it any better. I know the Yankees have had interest in Liriano as well, but I’d hate to see him go to New York where the media and fans would eat him alive at the first spot of trouble. I could almost see that as Pavano 2.0 in New York.

    There is a starting pitching jam, but I’d rather see the Twins try to get rid of Baker, Blackburn or Slowey before giving up on Liriano. Those three pitchers basically throw the same stuff anyway, so if you see them once you’re going to see them two more times. Plus, I think a top four starting rotation consisting of Liriano, Duensing, Gibson and Pavano as the workhorse, could be a solid rotation.

  2. Yeah, there’s definitely quite a few arms. But I don’t think you can hand jobs to Blackburn and Slowey. Those two can battle it out for the fifth spot, and if the winner falters to start the season, call up Gibson.

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