I may be in the minority, but I’m just not terribly excited by the prospect of the Yankees potentially trading for Francisco Liriano, which is why I hadn’t bothered to comment on it. But given the number of smart people taking serious looks at it, it seemed worth weighing in on.
Liriano had an unequivocally spectacular year in 2010. 6.0 fWAR (4th-highest total in the AL in 2010) seasons for pitchers don’t exactly grow on trees, nor do 2.66 FIPs over 191.2 innings. Pretty much everything went right for Liriano in 2010: spectacular K/9 (9.44), low-ish BB/9 (2.72), nearly nonexistent HR/9 (0.42) and a superb GB% (53.6%). His season likely would’ve been one for the ages had he not surrendered a .331 BABIP — a mark around the 10th percentile, and by far the worst mark of the top ten AL fWAR pitchers — and been able to strand runners slightly more effectively than 1.1 basis points above average (73.1%), numbers that led to Liriano not only significantly outpitching his 3.62 ERA, but recording the highest positive delta between his ERA and FIP in the AL.
I cite all of this ostensibly to say “let’s see it again.” We know Liriano can be a great pitcher, but he’s really only done it twice — in 2006 (before injuries derailed him for about two-and-a-half seasons) and last season. There’s certainly a lot to like about the idea of a 27-year-old lefthanded near-ace pitching for the Yankees (and again, I’m applying the “near-ace” tag solely because I don’t think Liriano’s done it long enough to be considered a true number-one) who also had the best slider in the American League in 2010. There’s also some concern, regarding whether or not he can stay healthy enough to repeat his elite 2010, along with the fact that he’s only under team control for two more seasons.
If this were a Matt Garza situation where you had three more years of team control, maybe you start thinking about unloading some of your top talent. But for all of Liriano’s excellence, I can’t fathom giving up a bat the likes of which the Yankee farm system has in all likelihood never produced during many of our lifetimes, and I’m be highly reluctant to part with any of the B’s, despite the fact that we have no idea whether any of them will end up panning out.
If I’m the Yankees, I sit this one out, unless the asking price drops from Jesus Montero and Manny Banuelos to a package of second-tier prospects. Hey, the Mets were able to extract Johan Santana for yesterday’s garbage, so stranger things have certainly happened. However, you know Bill Smith will ask for the sun, the moon and the stars from the Yanks given that they’re both in the AL, not to mention the fact that the Yankees have likely come to symbolize quite a bit of frustration on the part of Twins’ fans. Smith would really have to be blown away to trade the team’s best pitcher to the Yankees. At the end of the day the Yankees need to pass and wait until the end of the 2012 season, at which point we’ll know if Liriano’s still the goods, and if so, the team can make as lavish an offer as they see fit without surrendering prospects.
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