Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Bucs have reached a deal with LHP Francisco Liriano, 29, who was out with a bum right arm. He says the deal will match the original two year/$12.75M contract they had agreed to last month, but would be adjusted during the first season for time missed. The Bucs haven't announced the signing yet, and we assume a very thorough physical is planned before they will.
He didn't give specifics, but we'd guess that it was rewritten to flip some guaranteed money to inning or starts based incentives. The lefty brings some upside and experience. While his counting numbers haven't been very strong, his peripherals suggest that he could contribute as a mid-rotation guy.
The Pirates focused on his 48% career groundball rate and nine Ks per game as indicators, though those numbers are countered by his four walks per nine innings. At any rate, the FO is betting two years on the hope that he performs to his advanced metrics rather than to his ERA.
Liriano will join a rotation that today looks like AJ Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald and Jeff Karstens. It likely takes Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson out of the mix - or puts the oft injured Karstens back in the bullpen to save some wear on his bod. By July, the Pirates will also have Charlie Morton, who is recovering from TJ surgery, and perhaps Gerrit Cole, who they now have no reason to rush, available for duty.
For that matter, they don't have to rush Liriano, either. This is the deepest staff of the Huntington era, and that's a necessity. Not only do they have some insurance against the inevitable injuries, but also for the question marks, like James McDonald & Liriano's ability to bounce back and JK & Charlie Morton's health.
That depth may come into play quickly. If the Cisco Kid isn't ready, Karstens and one of the kids will start the season in the rotation. This year's schedule is relatively busy at the start, and the Pirates will need all five guys to pitch the second time around.
The staff doesn't have any aces, but it does have some potentially solid mid-rotation types and numbers this year, and the pipeline should be ready to provide a couple of elite arms in the foreseeable future. And it does show that the Bucs realize the price of business is going up. With the signing, their 40-man payroll is sniffing at the $80M mark, with the team on the hook for $68M.