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Rumors continue to swirl around Twins ace Francisco Liriano and the Yankees

Mar 1, 2011, 11:21 AM EDT

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Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune got the Francisco Liriano rumor mill rolling two weeks ago by reporting that the Twins aren’t interested in signing the 27-year-old left-hander to a long-term contract extension and are open to the possibility of trading him before he becomes a free agent following the 2012 season.

I speculated that the Twins were undervaluing Liriano by focusing on his win-loss record and ERA rather than taking a deeper look at his exceptional secondary numbers. He’s the “ace” they want.

Shortly after that Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson publicly criticized Liriano’s lack of offseason conditioning and manager Ron Gardenhire chose Carl Pavano, not Liriano, as the Opening Day starter, throwing a little more gas on the Liriano fire.

Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony downplayed the situation last week, but stopped well short of putting it completely to rest by saying, among other things: “We’re not talking to anybody right now on Francisco Liriano.” Right now, of course, being the phrasing of note.

Well, now the reports linking Liriano to the Yankees are starting to roll in. Bob Nightengale of USA Today, who has broken Twins news several times in the past, wrote that the Yankees “are keeping a close eye” on Liriano “while the Twins are keeping tabs on Yankees prospects” and then yesterday Nightengale said on Jim Bowden’s radio show that “it’s possible” Liriano is traded to the Yankees for a package headlined by Joba Chamberlain or Ivan Nova before the season begins.

Building off that, Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com reported yesterday that “the Yankees called the Twins this offseason about the availability of Liriano” but “as of right now Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said there are no talks with the Twins.”

Twins fans understandably aren’t happy about talk of trading Liriano, particularly now that the Yankees are rumored to be interested, but it seems awfully hard to believe that all this speculation–from Christensen’s initial report and the Twins’ general attitude toward Liriano to Antony’s non-denial denial and Nightengale’s follow-up–is somehow being invented out of whole cloth. As a Twins fan I hope I’m wrong.

  1. cur68 - Mar 1, 2011 at 3:17 PM

    Kay, I don’t get it. Why trade Liriano? His stats from last season were pretty breathtaking. If there wasn’t a guy named Halliday in the league then you’d be talking about Frankie a lot more. The TJ surgery argument does not hold much water. Since the chances for complete recovery is ~ 80% (this is the conservative number) and, by any measure, he’s recovered completely, then he is the sack as an ace starting pitcher. TJS seems to actually make the pitching arm stronger in some people. I submit that this is the case with him. He’s actually better post TJS (cue the ridicule). Nova could need TJ surgery by the end of this season and Frankie will never need it again (unless he switches pawsies). Frankie for Ivan is NOT a good deal even with that Super-sized Happy Meal Chamberlain thrown in (cue howls of outrage from yankers fans). The next, most perplexing mystery for me, why the damn Yankers? All those teams in the league why does it have to be the evil empire? As I’ve stated else where; the Jays need pitching (cue Jays’ haters). Trade him to them. The Jays were saved by an Angel, and have the cash. The manager is a freakin pitching coach, he will show his pitcher some love (or alt least call an ace an ace). Gardy never struck me as a fool, but I think he and the whole Twins org are mishandling this much like the Cards mishandled the Pujols thing (cue all of Card nation to pick up sticks & stones. Twins nation unsure if to support or defend). This may well grow to be a wilponian level mistake (cues chrisny3 to crush me in anger). I just do not believe this conversation is going on and that the Twins are not squashing it firmly.

  2. rapmusicmademedoit - Mar 1, 2011 at 5:35 PM

    why the damn Yankers? All those teams in the league why does it have to be the evil empire?

    because he is tired of losing in Minny, he want’s to be on a winner and the Yankees sure are winner’s
    i hope Minny stays away from the playoffs this year, they have no business there, their results are proof.
    buh bye loser.

  3. westtribetobe - Mar 1, 2011 at 6:16 PM

    Rapmusic, your post really makes no sense to me. The Twins are a good enough team that they’ll have a shot at the playoffs without Liriano, though it does confuse me considering this is a team that desparately needs a front-of-the-rotation starter. Nova has promise and Joba could excel in a smaller market city like Minnesota, but still, this would be like if the Giants traded away Matt Cain… there’s just no purpose in making a move like this before the deadline, let alone the start of the season.

    Sabathia, Liriano, Improved Hughes, Rebounded Burnett, Colon/Garcia/Prior/Betances/Mitre is as good as Redsox rotation, far better than Rangers and Tigers, and could even turn out to pack more of a punch than Rays or Whitesox or Angels.

  4. luckywi - Mar 1, 2011 at 9:35 PM

    Gleeman: Stats are one thing. And say a lot. But a true “ace” shows mental fortitude. And as a Twin’s fan myself, he has shown no mental fortitude since his surgery. In fact he admitted last year he was lacking in confidence. And once he got a guy or two on base, he started walking off the mound and looking around, sometimes to the dugout, as if to say”get me out of here. This could hurt my numbers. And future salary potential”. He also flat out refused the option of closing. Yes there is some speculation here. But he lacks an “ace’s” mental toughness. People were upset about trading Johan, but he has been a little injury prone since he left. Just an opinion.

  5. luckywi - Mar 1, 2011 at 9:48 PM

    You know, calling him an “ace” doesn’t make it true. I guess that was the short version. I just re-read the headline. If the manger, or pitching coach say’s ” he’s the ace we’ve been looking for”, I’ll buy it. Not from a writer though. Numbers do not make aces. Numbers and toughness, do. A bulldog mentality, when everything is on the line make an “ace”.

    • uyf1950 - Mar 2, 2011 at 10:58 AM

      Based on your criteria one pitcher that immediately comes to mind as not being an ace is Cliff Lee. Toughness to me and probably most fans and manages I would think means wanting the ball in do or die situations. Unless I’m mistaken Lee wouldn’t go out and pitch on 3 days rest for either the Phillies or the Rangers during their playoff runs. Does Lee’s reluctance to take the ball on 3 days rest in critical situations eliminate him from the “ace” category?
      Regardless, getting back to Liriano even assuming he is not an ace he most certainly is a very strong #2.

      • luckywi - Mar 2, 2011 at 3:31 PM

        Yes he is a good #2 starter. But not an ace. He’s not even the opening day starter for the Twins this year. And that doesn’t automatically make Pavano an ace either. Although he fit’s the bill better than Liriano. Again, just my opinion, but Gleeman just tossing around the “ace” card (pun intended) is atad irresponsible. Again, just my opiniion.

  6. luckywi - Mar 2, 2011 at 3:34 PM

    Oh, and no I really woouldn’t consider Lee an ace. He really floundered down the stretch, but did do well in the playoffs. He made a personal choice.

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