Friday, December 21, 2012

Bucs Reportedly Sign Liriano

It's being reported that the Bucs have agreed to terms on a two-year, $14M (edit: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets the deal is worth $12.75M) contract with LHP Francisco Liriano, pending a physical. It looked like the Mets were after him, too, with some interest also shown by his long-time club, the Twins.

Liriano is one of those guys who has great stuff, and shows long stretches of it, but with a couple of exceptions (2006, 2010) hasn't been able to translate it into wins.

He signed with the San Francisco Giants in 2000, and was traded to the Minnesota Twins along with Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser in exchange for catcher A. J. Pierzynski in 2003. In 2005, he led the minors in K with 204 and earned a September call-up.

The Dominican started the 2006 season in Minnesota's bullpen, but was promoted to the starting rotation in May and took off running. He won two Rookie of the Month awards and made the AL All-Star roster. The Cisco Kid went 12-3 and led MLB with a 2.19 ERA before he went down with elbow woes. He would make just two more starts that season before his torn elbow ligament required TJ surgery. Liriano went to the chop shop in November and missed all of 2007.

And the sad truth is since then, he's had one strong season in 2010, putting up a 40-49 slate and 4.75 ERA from 2008-12. In the last two years, he's been even less effective, going 15-22/5.23. But here's what Dave Cameron of Fangraphs thinks about the signing: ", teams are betting multi-year contracts on (a pitcher's) peripherals being more predictive than their ERAs." You can bet this signing had Baseball Systems Development whiz Dan Fox's fingerprints all over it.

His 2011-12 K rate is 8.5/nine, and he gives up less than a hit per inning. Liriano's FIP is nearly .75 lower than his ERA, so he's a stat-head's beacon. The down side? He's averaged five walks per game in the past two years.

Liriano has two good indicators for success based on his pitching charts: twice in his career, he's given up fewer than three walks per game and had 50%+ ground ball rates. Those pair of stats happened in tandem during 2006 and 2010, the seasons when he made the All-Star team and was named the AL Comeback Player of the Year.

So aside from watching for those two data points, here's what the 29 year old lefty has in his toolbox: Both his four-and-two seamers came in at 93 last year, so he still has some steam left in his left arm. His slider, his swing-and-miss pitch, averages 86, so that's a hardball pitch, too. Liriano has a change that comes in at 81, a nice spread from his hard stuff.

They hit the jackpot with AJ Burnett last year; they're hoping for back-to-back brass rings with Liriano, though the risk of another Erik Bedard always lurks, too. One thing it does change is the dynamics of a Joel Hanrahan deal; the Bucs aren't locked into finding a starting pitcher but have options now.

John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus is reporting that the Pirates are looking at Bosox's Jose Iglesias and the Dodgers' Dee Gordon, both good glove, bad stick SS. So the roster is still up in the air. The FO could use another infielder for the bench at least, and will surely sign a couple more bullpen arms for camp.

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