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.This seems quite sensible to me, and the Twins do boast excellent pitching depth at the Major League level and throughout there system - the loss of Liriano would hurt in the short term, but it could strengthen the team quite a bit as early as 2012. With the respective hauls brought back for Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, and Matt Garza and the amount of teams involved in the negotiations, this seems like the perfect time for the Twins to make such a move, as well. I suspect that Cashman and the Yankees are preparing a strong offer, considering the fact that they contacted the Twins about Liriano's availability sometime in late November or early December. This begs the question of what exactly a reasonable, competitive offer for Liriano may be.
Liriano, 27, can become a free agent after the 2012 season. Coming off a resurgent year, he might never have a higher trade value.
One thing is clear: The Twins don't plan to sign him long term. Last weekend, they avoided arbitration with a one-year, $4.3 million deal. From what I've heard, their long-term talks went nowhere, with Liriano's camp hinting it wanted a three-year, $39 million contract.
For one thing, Liriano is still an injury risk. He had arm injuries coming through the minors, he had Tommy John elbow surgery in 2006 and he still has a violent delivery.
For all the talk about how Liriano is learning to trust his fastball and changeup, the lefthander relied heavily on his slider again last season. According to FanGraphs.com, 38 percent of the pitches he threw as a rookie in 2006 were sliders. That number dipped to 27 percent during his abysmal 2009 season and returned to 34 percent last year.
Over at Fangraphs, Dave Cameron points out that Liriano's history of injuries and inconsistency makes a comparison to Shaun Marcum quite apt in surmising a potential deal. The Blue Jays acquired Brett Lawrie, a top-forty or so prospect, from the Brewers in exchange for Marcum in a one-for-one swap. If we assume that this is a reasonable baseline, it seems that the Twins could not possibly expect Jesus Montero in return, and it may rule out Manny Banuelos as well (though his rankings have been somewhat inconsistent). With that in mind, I tossed together the following: Dellin Betances, David Adams/Corban Joseph, and a C-level prospect.
Betances is not without risk himself, but he has a very high ceiling and has performed quite well in most rankings (including ranks of 44 and 73 on top-hundred lists, and 16 on a top-fifty pitching prospect list). He may not be on-par with Lawrie, and that's where Adams or Joseph come in, as the Twins are weak organizationally in the middle infield - neither is a fantastic prospect, but both project as capable everyday second basemen. From there, I would toss-in another arm (D.J. Mitchell, perhaps). I would also be willing to attempt to sell the Twins on Betances and Laird, as Laird could contribute this season and may be a more desirable asset as such.
Despite the inherent risks, I'm a big fan of Liriano. He has great strikeout and groundball rates, a solid walk rate, and he's virtually unhittable against left-handed hitters - all of which bode very well for success in the AL East and New Yankee Stadium. What do you think? What would you be willing to give up for Liriano?