Pirates to Sign Francisco Liriano

The Pittsburgh Pirates are set to sign Francisco Liriano, according to La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The deal is a two year, $14 M deal.

Liriano is coming off a season where he had a 5.34 ERA in 156.2 innings between Minnesota and the Chicago White Sox. That followed a year where he had a 5.09 ERA in 134.1 innings in Minnesota. The lefty had a breakout season in 2010 at the age of 26, with a 3.62 ERA in 191.2 innings. He struggled with injuries following that year, which may have led to his poor numbers.

His xFIP last year was 4.14, showing that he was throwing better than his numbers suggested. He’s struggled with some control issues the last two years, but his strikeout rate was over a strikeout per inning in 2012. Liriano is a left-hander with a career 9.1 K/9 ratio and a career 47.5% ground ball rate. That’s a great fit for PNC Park. He should slot in the rotation behind A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, and James McDonald. That should set the rotation, with Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson battling it out for the final spot.

The Pirates haven’t confirmed the deal, and Neal says it will be finalized after a physical. The 40-man roster is full, so a player will have to come off when Liriano is made official. With no other moves, and assuming Liriano is at $7 M a year, the 2013 payroll currently projects to be over $73 M. That will change if the Pirates deal Joel Hanrahan.

UPDATE: Jon Heyman has the exact figure:

UPDATE: The deal also includes performance bonuses, which haven’t been revealed.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • frsthypocrit

    Hammer’s certainly gone now. His $7M pays for one year of Liriano’s deal.

    • Lee Young

      agree…hopefully Searage can make Liriano more consistent.

  • John DiVito

    I’m hoping for good things, but Liriano hasn’t been effective over the last few years. He gets hit and walks batters (8.3 H/9 and 5.0 BB/9 over the past 2 years, WHIP over 1.46 both years). Sure, Liriano will strike out some guys, but what happens in between those strikeouts has me worried.

    Karstens could have been had for half as much with only a 1 year commitment.

    • Stephen Brooks

      The problem with any comparison of Karstens to (fill in the SP here) is his (un)availability. Uncertainty has a cost. When you re-sign Karstens, you probably get 90-120 innings in aggregate, but you have little control over when those innings occur. If we knew for certain that Karstens would take 15 consecutive turns in April/May/June and remain healthy until Morton, Locke/McPherson or Cole are ready, it would be a no-brainer to sign him at ~$4m. But we don’t know that – for all we know, he injures an oblique in Spring Training or a hip three pitches into his second start and is on the shelf for two months.

      These are real risks, and clearly the Bucs’ FO – who have access to a lot more information than we do – did not feel comfortable with them.

      Not that Liriano’s performance isn’t risky too. It’s just a different risk to assume than the one you have with Karstens.

      • Y2JGQ2

        Stephen- i see what you are saying and it’s a valid point. However I could say that based on history, even though you don’t have any control when those innings occur, karstens usually will last far further into a game than Liriano will due to pitch count and you can easily verify that. That that means is instead of a 6th starter being used due to a DL stint (and we have plenty of pitchers capable of doing that) we are using our bullpen for an extra two innings every 5th day. I would argue that, that becomes way worse of an effect over the course of the year than a pitcher who pitches 6 or 7 innings when he goes out, but can only pitch 15-20 starts. What we DO know, is that Karstens will likely pitch better than Liriano and that his control will be far better. When you can’t throw out baserunners, you can’t have 3-5 walks in the first 5-6 innings of a baseball game and win.

  • frsthypocrit

    I like the deal for Liriano, for what it’s worth. Comes with flexibility for the deadline, too, if McFear shows well, Locke pitches decently, Cole comes up, Morton gets healthy … if Liriano pitches like a 3-4 with the potential to miss bats and be unhittable at times he’s a big chip to fill holes with 1.5 years of control mid-season. That’s a lot of “If’s” but that’s what small market teams are left to.

    • frsthypocrit

      Oops… he’s got a 49% groundball rate. Better yet?

  • leadoff

    I don’t know if there is a stat that would show how he has done against national league teams, but for sure PNC is a better place for him to pitch and he will have a strong defense team behind him. I have seen him several times in Florida and I always thought he had a lot of talent. I don’t think the price was too high, Adams is a setup guy and he got 12mil for 2 years. Also like to find out if his velocity was the same 2010 to 2011 and what it actually is?

    • frsthypocrit

      read his fastball averaged 93 last year so still pretty good and that slider and change will look nice, too. at the very least, he’ll be exciting to watch. three outcome pitcher — flyball (homeruns), strikeouts, walks.

      • Lee Young

        not sold on him, but….

        almost sorta like trading KC to Minn for Liriano? And….taking on some salary ($4m)?

        • AdreBox

          Maybe Liriano has a little more velocity on his fastball?

    • WNCRoadBowling

      Career 3.31 ERA in Inter-league play.

      • WNCRoadBowling

        K/9 is almost 10.

  • jlease717

    I’m glad for this signing in two ways. 1, it could work out, and he could start pitching better. 2, he sucks and this punches the clown college’s tickets out of the front office.

    I think 2 has a lot more ‘upside’ than 1.

    • Lee Young

      will you go with him….a ‘twofer’?


    • TonyPenaforHOF

      Unless the “clown college” gets a clue how to develop talent like Tampa Bay and St. Louis or learns how to take smart risks that actually work like Oakland, #2 has much more upside than #1.

      • Lee Young

        Yeh…look at all that talent our ‘clown college’ is developing.

        Nice Top 10/20 we got according to most experts.

        • TonyPenaforHOF

          C’mon Lee. I love the Pirates as much as anyone but all potential in the world doesn’t mean anything if it can’t play at the Major League level.

          Until this management team shows us they can produce they are a failure. Not a total failure but for the kind of money they have spent and the draft position we have had there is no excuse for not producing more MLB talent.

          • Lee Young

   usually takes 4-6 years to develop a player. NH has only been drafting for 5.

            We have one player from the ’08 system in the majors fulltime: Pedro.

            More are coming….will they be any good, nobody knows. But it is nice to know that the ODDS are now better that they WILL be good.

            This ain’t a FB or B’ball draft. It takes longer for baseball ‘recruits’ to make it to the majors. And when the historical ‘make it’ rate is 1 or 2 players a draft, well…

    • Todd Smith

      I think this move will be remembered a lot like the AJ Burnett deal. Some people will whine, cry and kick their feat when the deal first happens, then a year later, they will be lining up to get the Francisco Liriano t-shirt at Pirate fest while hoping Huntington’s NEXT deal will fail.

      • TonyPenaforHOF

        I hope all of his deals work. My problem – I see his performance as an average GM. That isn’t going to work in Pittsburgh. We need an outstanding GM in every area.

        I know it’s tough to find but that’s what it takes in this current MLB environment. His player development is weak, his trades are average and his free agent signings have mostly been a bust.

        • Lee Young

          So who do you suggest?

          Personally, I think NH has done a really good job considering what he started with, which is practically nothing other than a few players here and there.

          • TonyPenaforHOF

            I suggest the first round picks developing into above average major league players.

            I suggest some – not all but some – of the overslot picks developing into average or above major league players.

            I suggest finding undervalued MLB talent and bringing it to Pittsburgh through trade or FA.

            I suggest signing Cuban talent that is MLB ready (i.e. Cepedes)

            I suggest hiring talented baseball men or women to develop our minor league talent instead of people with very thin resumes.

            I’m not hating – it is painful for me to type this. I want to share meaningful Pirate games with my children, who are baseball fans. I am expressing my view based on the actual data – not on “expert projections”.

        • Todd Smith

          All I see is a fanbase that is DETERMINED to hate everything.

      • Lee Young

        TONYP…I wanted to place this where it wouldn’t look ‘squished’. I posted this on Bucs Dugout. It is in response to your ‘we should have more players from our drafts in the majors comment below:

        “HS players, esp pitchers have a higher attrition rate for whatever reason. Nothing new there.
        ZVR and Cain were the two highest paid bonus babies. They are in A/AA ball. If they came out of college this summer, where would they go…to A Ball, probably. Where did Cole go? A ball. So the fact that they are this far from the majors is not that surprising.

        Most HS players take 6 yrs or more. There are exceptions, but on average it takes them a long time.

        Again, when 7 out of 8 ‘bomb’ out, and they’re high schoolers, well, that is kind of to be expected. See this link (and read the two links in the first paragraph).

        Plus, when you’re in the minors, you’re working on things. They may still turn it around. Sure, it doesn’t look good, but we drafted essentially 2nd and 3rd rounders. Beats drafting ‘pure’ 8th rounders or 10th rounders, of which the odds drop even more.

        Take a look at how many HS pitchers were drafted in the first 3 rounds. Let me know what THEIR success rate was. In the 2009 2nd round only 4 players have played in the majors. All were college players. One, Andy Oliver, is now a Bucco. In the 3rd round, 2 have played in the majors. All are college players.

        A quick check 2nd and 3rd rd 2009 HS draftees shows only this guy with a half decent ERA.

        You’re talking in generalities, Tony, without knowing the facts. :)
        I understand your frustrations, but look at Locke and Fearsome…2006/2007 draftees…just now on the cusp.

  • IC Bob

    You voice my sentiments. Part of me likes the move but this could be an epic bomb that we remember Neal by for years to come. It screams of desperation but then again after all of these years of loser we are desperate so lets hope we find lightning in a bottle.

    • Lee Young

      Hardly desperate:

      “Liriano ranked 28th on MLBTR’s list of top 50 free agents”

      Sure thing? No!
      Risk worth taking? Yes!

      Beats signing a Joe Blanton, imho!


  • bench player

    With the ground balls, strikeouts and our defense I think it is a solid move.

  • beatembuccos21

    I’m guessing the hope is that the Pirates tight infield defense will stop some ground ball singles and erase base runners with double plays and his strikeout rate will remain high, which would help to negate the impact of an unacceptable WHIP.

    Among pitchers with 150 or more IP, Liriano had the fifth worst WHIP in 2012. Also among the bottom 20 were Porcello, Hochevar and Dubront.

    I’m more skeptical than optimistic on this. There’s some upside (he was fourth in K/9 among those with 150 or more IP and has one stellar and one good season in his past), but three of his last four years have been awful. Not just bad, flat awful.

    • Lee Young

      For all we know, Martin’s pitch framing ability may buy him some much needed strikes.

      Remember…Liriano had Doumit as his catcher at times…lol

      • beatembuccos21

        I think we were typing at nearly the same time. And apparently having the same thoughts.

        • Lee Young

          IF you’re thinking like me, I will have to pray for you.


    • beatembuccos21

      Also, this will be a good test of Martin’s pitch framing ability.

  • CityofChamps

    I was hoping we’d go after Marcum. But if our rotation is set, does that mean that we won’t be shopping Hanrahan as much?

    • leadoff

      I think Hanrahan will be gone in the very near future, the seven mil for him has to come off the books and they will get something for Hanrahan to boot, looks like some interesting moves for the Pirates.
      When your pockets are full of pennies instead of dollars you have to rob Peter to pay Paul once in a while.

    • Todd Smith

      Last year:

      Shaun Marcum: 4.21 xFIP, 35.4% GB%, 1.16 HR/9, 7.91 K/9, 2.98 BB/9, 1.4 WAR
      Francisco Liriano: 4.14 xFIP, 43..8% GB%, 1.09 HR/9, 9.59 K/9, 5.00 BB/9, 1.8 WAR

      Marcum had fewer walks, but that’s about it. Liriano was the better pitcher AND has more upside.

      I still think Hanrahan will be dealt, but this opens up more options for the Pirates instead of just looking for a starter.

      • CityofChamps

        Marcum’s been solid at the least for the past three years. With Liriano, I’m not quite sure what we’re getting. It could turn out well, but it’s risky.

        • Lee Young

          Marcum’s FB velocity has been declining the last few years.

          • Lee Young

            Marcum only pitched 121 inn last year, just 30 more than Karstens.


            • CityofChamps

              but 201 and 195 the years befor

  • leadoff

    Looks like most teams in the division are making moves to help themselves except the Cards.

    • TonyPenaforHOF

      Yea, they just promote players from the minors and keep winning.

      • Lee Young

        That IS an annoying habit!

        They need to quit doing that!


        • TonyPenaforHOF

          I agree. Let’s hire their entire development team and show them how it’s done :)

  • Mark Ludwig

    Tim, is your payroll estimate ($73M) based on the entire 40-man? I only ask because I did it myself after the season and have updated my roster as the offseason has gone along. By my numbers the projected payroll for the likely opening day 25-man roster is ~$68.5M. Just trying to square my numbers.

  • wildarschase

    I remember Liriano smoking the Pirates in June:
    6.2 in 4 H 1 R 1 ER 2 BB 6 K 11 GB 7 FB

    I think it’s worth the risk…. it’d be nice to get Marcum and the like, but it’s a two-way street. They have to want to come here.

    • Lee Young

      I don’t want Marcum….he’s going downhill physically.

      Don’t really like Liriano, but his peripheals are still strong.

      Maybe Martin can ‘frame’ him some more strikes?

  • Y2JGQ2

    So….I have no problem with the signing in space. I just want to again voice my displeasure in us Non-tendering Karstens. Jeff was still the best available pitcher, the most flexible pitcher, at the best price. None of our current starting pitchers have the ability to go to the bullpen and succeed if necessary. None of the available free agent pitchers could command less than 5 million a year for a sub 4 ERA with less than 3 walks per 9 innings. None. But we non-tendered him…….just to pay a pitcher with worse statistics and terrible control for over 2mm more per year over 2 years. If we had no control over Karstens or couldn’t afford him and lost him, then this signing is fine, but we threw away a good pitcher for a pitcher who could’ve been great, but has only been as good as average 1 year out of 5.

  • scrappy2499

    MLBTR said he actually signed for 12.75 mil. not 14

  • Matt Beam

    Like the signing… I think the 2nd year helps both sides out as Cole will effectively replace AJ in the 2014 rotation, but it’ll be interesting whether Wandy exercises his $13M player option in 2014 or tests the free agent waters hoping for one more big contract.

    If Liriano’s deal had been for 1 year, we could have been staring at the possibility of replacing 3 spots in the rotation a year from now.

    The realistic possibility of Wandy turning down a $13M option makes me hope my son turns out to be LH and loves baseball

  • Sean Matthews

    I’ve never seen so many crystal balls in my life

  • http://AOL totall

    I like the deal Liriano deal for one reason, NH and his scouts knows pitching and they must have seen a flaw in his delivery.

    On a differeny subject: there was a lot of whinning after the players completed their trainning by the Seals. What didn’t get coverage in the local media was Coach K. and Duke’s basketball team went thru the same trainning the next day and the players loved it. Big difference between paid baseball players and college players wanted to get better to get to the next level.

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