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The Twins may trade Francisco Liriano

Feb 10, 2011, 8:34 AM EDT

Francisco Liriano throwing

Twins ace Francisco Liriano is under team control though 2012 and he’s coming off a season that looks as though he’s back on track to being the ace he looked like he’d be before Tommy John surgery.  Normally that would make a guy a candidate for a long-term extension.  The Twins, however, may be thinking differently about it.  Here’s Joe Christensen:

With six pitchers vying for five spots in the Twins starting rotation, one possible solution is trading Francisco Liriano. Speaking to team officials recently, I’ve been surprised how open they are to this possibility, but the logic makes sense … One thing is clear: The Twins don’t plan to sign him long term.

Christensen hears that long-term talks between the Twins and Liriano went nowhere and cites his injury history — and his continued reliance on his arm-taxing slider — as things that make the Twins wary of making a long commitment to the guy. There’s a lot in the article about Liriano allegedly “came up short in big situations” last year. It’s mentioned that “in his final 20 starts, including the postseason, he didn’t finish the eighth inning once.”

While Liriano is no CC Sabathia or Felix Hernandez when it comes to being a workhorse, that’s not a comparison a lot of pitchers will win.  Liriano had the same number of total eight-inning starts as Jered Weaver, Brett Myers, Mat Latos and John Lackey last year, so it’s not like he’s awful or anything.  The dude is a fantastic pitcher. As such, it’s kind of puzzling for me to see so much negativity thrown on him here.  For Twins fans’ sake I hope that’s all Christensen’s own analysis and not the opinion of the front office. Because if the front office thinks Liriano is as expendable as the article makes him seem, they’re not going to get true value for the guy if  and when they trade him.

  1. Jonny 5 - Feb 10, 2011 at 8:55 AM

    Cashman wondered why he woke up with wood this morning too….

    • Panda Claus - Feb 10, 2011 at 10:24 AM

      So is Liriano now the “poor man’s” Cliff Lee? Whether Cashman can swing that trade or not, can’t you see him ending up in either the AL or NL East at some point?

  2. Joe - Feb 10, 2011 at 9:00 AM

    One game that Christiensen uses as evidence that Liriano failed to come up big when it counted was the Rockies game: “In his much-hyped showdown with Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez, the Rockies batted around in the first inning.”

    Liriano’s line in that game: 7-5-3-3-3-6. A “quality start.”

    Don’t people realize that failing to finish the 8th inning isn’t really a sign of weakness any longer?

  3. shawon0meter - Feb 10, 2011 at 9:03 AM

    So a team that will never advance past the ALDS because they don’t have an ace, is gonna get rid of the closest thing they have to an ace? I can’t see it.

  4. danwhitmer - Feb 10, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    He can come to the Orioles : )

    • fellspointbird - Feb 10, 2011 at 9:44 AM

      Hell yes, he can! Arrieta + 2 prospects (none named Britton or Machado)?

      • Panda Claus - Feb 10, 2011 at 10:22 AM

        I’d trade Tillman before Jake, but I’m not the one pulling the trigger.

  5. garryfish - Feb 10, 2011 at 9:22 AM

    Here come the Yankees

  6. docktorellis - Feb 10, 2011 at 9:46 AM

    Bill Smith, you are beginning to piss me off…

    • AK47 - Feb 10, 2011 at 10:08 AM

      BEGINNING to piss you off? How long have you been paying attention? Smith has been making mostly stupid moves now for awhile. Capps for Ramos, letting JJ Hardy walk, going after an unproven Japanese player and entering this season relying on a Nishioka/Casilla battery at SS/2B, resigning Capps for $7M,… this is nothing new. That the Twins would think to trade Liriano is stupid, but I’m starting to realize that it’s not all that surprising. Their front-office refuses to bring anyone in with a strong grasp on advanced statistics so you’re left with a bunch of dolts looking at ERA and Win/Save totals.

      • docktorellis - Feb 10, 2011 at 10:24 AM

        AK, you hit the nail on the head. Painful to watch…

      • sknut - Feb 10, 2011 at 10:47 AM

        Actually the front office has had a stats guy for almost a year now, now how much they use him i am not sure. Also let Lirano go out there one more year and go from there. I feel the Twins won’t trade Lirano and this is I am bored out of my mind so let me throw some stuff at the wall specluation.

      • AK47 - Feb 10, 2011 at 11:00 AM

        sknut, i have heard that the Twins allegedly have a stats guy…but with the moves they make, I find it hard to believe this person is real…and if they are, the Twins certainly don’t utilize this person very much. Anyway, I tend to agree with you that the Christensen piece is of the “slow news day” variety.

    • Panda Claus - Feb 10, 2011 at 10:21 AM

      If Liriano turns into Erik Bedard II, would Smith still look so ridiculous? If the Twins have true concerns about this guy holding up, maybe it’s better to move while the trade value is high[est].

      • docktorellis - Feb 10, 2011 at 10:27 AM

        Agreed. If they have some medical insights into the motion with which he throws his slider, etcetera, I understand balking at a long commitment, but Liriano was one of the best pitchers in baseball last year, and once his win/loss and ERA adjust to conform with his elite-level advanced stats, his value will be significantly higher. All pitchers are injury risks.

  7. jontler - Feb 10, 2011 at 10:02 AM

    I like how the playoff game against the Yankees was cited as some kind of knock against Liriano. I guess the extra third of an inning that Sabathia pitched that night is the difference between a stiff and an ace.

    Shameful thinking all-around.

  8. BC - Feb 10, 2011 at 10:12 AM

    What are they thinking???!?!?!!!?

  9. trevorb06 - Feb 10, 2011 at 10:15 AM

    I could understand trading him AFTER the 2011 season, or even DURING the 2012 season. I do know the fear of signing that frankensteined elbow long term. It would scare me too. At the same time though they gave Pavario a longish contract (I imagine Liriano demands more years and dollars though).

    Can’t really call Smith an idiot on this one, it is a thin line with a guy with Liriano’s history… but then again who else do the Twin’s have to LEGITIMATELY fill an ace spot?

  10. uyf1950 - Feb 10, 2011 at 10:35 AM

    IF the Twins were to make Liriano available he would be a very, very nice addition to the Yankees. Throws left, not a lot of HR’s, nice strike out ratio and he will only be 28 at the end of the 2011 season. He struggled a bit towards the end of the season, but some of that may have been due to overwork after the prior 2 seasons. Depending on the asking price and how he does early in the 2011 season I most certainly could see the Yankees making an offer.

  11. wintwins - Feb 10, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    To me, this is just speculation.

    The Twins are reluctant to sign Liriano long-term, at least at this point. I can’t hold this against the front office given his injury history, and the fact that he has had just one good season since TJ surgery.
    2011 for Liriano could be:
    2010 redux – dominant
    2009ish – regressing
    2007-08 – injured

    Until they know what they have, they can’t possibly assign a long-term value to it, contract or trade-wise.

    • uyf1950 - Feb 10, 2011 at 11:20 AM

      The problem my friend with your comment and the dilemma for the Twins is the closer Liriano gets to FA the more likely it is that he will test the waters as they say. Once that happens it’s anyone’s guess where he will wind up. As the saying goes “without risk there in no reward”.

  12. atk71483 - Feb 10, 2011 at 11:19 AM

    Based on the article Christensen wrote, it appears to me that the only information that really comes from the Twins is that a long term deal wasn’t worked out with Liriano. He asserts that they “don’t plan to sign him long term,” when he can really only seem to support that they “don’t plan to sign him *right now.*” Liriano could just as easily be extended next season, after the Twins are more satisfied with his durability, he could very easily be left to walk after 2012. I don’t see how any of those outcomes are more or less likely than the one Christensen presents.

    He uses this extension impasse as evidence of organizational dissatisfaction with the player, speculates that this is a lead-up to a trade, and provides anecdote after anecdote of the player failing to meet expectations within a scope of objectivity seemingly fabricated by the writer himself. Nowhere does he suggest that this is how the Twins view Liriano. The reason we suspect that this might be the case is because Christensen is a beat writer for the team, and people tend to look at his articles with the assumption that he is reporting, rather than offering his opinions.

    The question I have is whether or not someone like Joe Christensen should be more clearly distinguishing between on what he is reporting and on what he is opining. There seem to me to be well defined roles in the sport section of a newspaper: There beat writers who report on what they are able to observe from their unique point of access. There are columnists who opine on whatever issues they feel so inclined. I don’t think a beat writer should be blurring this line. If he wants to offer commentary, that is certainly in his purview, but I think it should be more easily distinguishable from other reporting. And if this piece really was reporting from Twins’ sources, he certainly should do a better job citing them, because that would make this story a big deal.

    • wintwins - Feb 10, 2011 at 5:31 PM

      ^^+10

      The post I wish I would’ve wrote.

    • byjiminy - Feb 11, 2011 at 7:17 AM

      That is a rational interpretation but unfortunately not likely correct. Other reporters have confirmed that the Twins want it known they are open to trading him. Yes it’s moronic but just look how they handled J. J. Hardy.

      Advanced stats say he was possibly the best shortstop defensively and above average offensively, with a second-half hitting resurgence implying his injury woes were behind him. Their public stance was that they needed to add speed to the position and they considered him unreliable because of his past injuries. After talking him down publicly and lowering his trade value, they jumped at a trade way before they had to and accepted two minor leaguers whose upside is middle relief. This for one of the best shortstops available, in a year with a dearth of shortstops. They replaced him with two much bigger risks: an unproven Japanese player who actually HAS been injured almost every year of his career except last year, and whose great offensive stats last year belie an entire career of offensive mediocrity; and an in-house shortstop with a career OPS lower than Nick Punto’s, who is worse in every offensive and defensive category except one: he is faster. (Oh, Nishioka is faster too, but his stolen base percentage sucks, meaning even that “advantage” would likely not hold up as a statistical plus.)

      So when I hear they are slagging on Liriano because of his injury history, even though he was healthy all last year, while Baker, Blackburn, and Slowey actually DID have injury problems, and Pavano is old enough to be his…mentor, I am not encouraged. They also don’t like his attitutude or fortitude or something — which were also the reasons cited for banishing Garza and Bartlett, and look how that turns out.

      Yes, there is no proof that Christensen isn’t just making this stuff up on his own. But I read him every day, and he doesn’t usually do that. Howard Sinker immediately piped in with the same line. Their usual M.O. is to pass on the word about the way the Twins view things. If this came from Souhan or Reusse, you’d be absolutely right — they are goofballs who make up idiotic scenarios just to be provocative. But Christensen’s column is called “Twins Insider” for a reason. He is a responsible journalist who uses his access to keep fans informed about Twins management’s views. So as a Twins fan, I am really scared.

      It may be obvious to you all that a team that consistently falls short in the playoffs because they lack an ace who can match up with the better teams would never trade a top five pitcher who is signed for under $5 million and who has another arb year after that. I doubt there is one player more vital to their hopes of winning a world series except Mauer, and even he can’t get them there alone. But if I were a Yankees fan I would be really, really excited right now. Your prayers may be answered. You may not only get a deus ex machina pitching bailout, you may get some extra fans, as disgruntled Twins fans finally just say the hell with it and join the bandwagon.

      Their key players are at an age when they need to win now, and trading their ace would make it hard to ignore what we’ve always known in the back of our minds: The owners don’t really need to win, they just want to always be “competitive,” because that is good enough for their meek midwestern fan base.

      Oh and to the commenter above who called Liriano a poor man’s Cliff Lee: I think you could make a good case Liriano is better than Cliff Lee. It took him a few years to come back from his surgery, but Lee’s reputation comes mostly from the playoffs. Liriano is younger, and Lee’s back has been a problem much more recently than Liriano’s arm. If it weren’t for that fact that Liriano will likely be pitching in the A.L. east next year while Lee is in the N.L., I wouldn’t be surprised if Liriano had better year.

    • nicolenettleton - Feb 11, 2011 at 8:19 PM

      I definitely agree with you… This is the comment I left on Joe C.’s story over on the Star Tribune’s website before I saw yours:

      This story does not have any reliable sources. Joe C. vaguely asserts this “hint” to the “things he has heard” and now he has started the internet ablaze with speculation. As far as I’m concerned, the Twins have never once hinted at trading Liriano, and frankly, I don’t know why they would. Many players that have been on the team for many years have been continuously signing one or two year deals. Sure, the Twins could probably get some decent prospects for Liriano, but this story literally has no factual foundation. Quality journalism doesn’t distort reality or report based on speculation. If he had actually heard something substantial about this situation, he would have named a source and not vaguely referenced his “conversations with team officials.” Come back and talk when you actually have some credibility, and please do not start silly rumors like this. It’s disgusting to see what a whirlwind this started by simply saying that the solution to the Twins 6 starter situation would be to trade Liriano. There are a whole lot more solutions than that, why don’t you go report on all of those other scenarios too and pretend that, in your talks with “team officials,” they’ve been open to those scenarios as well. Poor journalistic taste if you ask me.

  13. dirtyharry1971 - Feb 10, 2011 at 3:30 PM

    Twins ran this arm into the ground years ago

  14. youngs79 - Feb 11, 2011 at 9:46 AM

    byjiminy, traded Garza and Bartlett and look how that turned out. Pretty damn good I’d say. You must not watch many Twins games. If it wasn’t for Delmon Young last season, the Twins would have never won another central division title. Their 6th in the last 8 years. Also, if Garza and Bartlett were so great, why are both not playing for the Rays any longer? I get a kick out of all these gloom and doomers. The Twins organization is a model of consistency and their farm system and scouting is the envy of a lot of major league clubs. Now, as far as Lariano goes, he has a violent delivery, which makes him suseptable to injury. In my opinion, he’s not mentally tough. He still has value and if they could get some key pieces for him why not? With Kyle Gibson waiting in the wings, I think they can afford to test the market with Lariano.

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