In today’s Star Tribune, Joe Christensen wrote about how the Twins may very well consider trading away Francisco Liriano. This has angered quite a few of my fellow bloggers and I wouldn’t be surprised to see other Liriano posts sprout up over the next day.
Looking at it from the Twins point of view, this rumor is believable. The team seemingly disregards sabermetrics in favor of more contemporary statistics and scouting, and this is likely what they see in Liriano: Good strikeout pitcher, but appears to lack confidence at times and cannot pitch deep into games like a pitcher of his ability should, and he’s still an injury risk. Another thing is that despite his dominance in 2010, he still managed an ERA only slightly lower (3.62) than his 2008 ERA (3.91), the first year after his Tommy John surgery. Similar ERAs, but he was a different (and worse) pitcher back then.
However, Liriano is the best starting pitcher the Twins have had since Johan Santana. A complaint may be that he didn’t pitch deep into games last year, but strikeout pitchers tend to run up high pitch counts early. His .331 BABIP and 2.66 FIP (compared to his 3.62 ERA) suggest he had some bad luck last season. He is not only the best pitcher on the Twins roster, he’s also one of the best in the league, period.
GM Bill Smith has had some better luck lately in trades and free agent acquisitions, but we still cannot forget the Santana, Garza/Young, and Hardy/Hoey trades. I think what worries me most about losing Liriano is the possibility of once again receiving a lackluster group of players in return.
However, we need to remember that this is only a rumor to this point, no matter how much confirmation we receive about the Twins’ interest. While dealing a starter would free up some space in the rotation, the Twins could always use the extra arms. Kevin Slowey, and Scott Baker have all had injuries in recent years, and no one’s going to forget Pavano’s Yankee years. I have to think that several people in the Twins front office are smart enough to recognize that trading Liriano away would be a mistake.