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  • Hard Truths

    When the news came down this weekend that the Twins had traded Francisco Liriano to the White Sox for a pair of middling 23-year-old prospects, the reaction around here was understandably negative. The same questions echoed in the minds of fans across the state.

    Why did the Twins deal Liriano in the wake of his worst start of the season?

    Why did they back away from their stated goal of adding young, high-upside talent?

    And why WHY did they send a potential difference-maker to the one team that almost no Twins fan wants to see hoisting a trophy in October?

    The answers to these questions aren't especially difficult to figure. Terry Ryan settled on dealing Liriano to the Sox because they had the best offer on the table and he didn't expect better ones to come by Tuesday. Of course he would have preferred to pry away younger prospects with higher ceilings, but even with the increased number of buyers brought on by the new postseason format, clearly teams weren't knocking at the door to hand over those kinds of players.

    And while that's disappointing, it shouldn't be all that surprising.

    It's not because of Liriano's clunker last Tuesday (which happened to come against the team that traded for him). General managers aren't stupid enough to view one outing in a vacuum when it comes to evaluating a pitcher. Bad starts happen. The problem is that, with Frankie, they've happened too often over the past five years.

    Since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2008, Liriano owns a 4.69 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. Utterly mediocre numbers that have been very much in line with the ones he's posted this year. For all his flurries of brilliance, the league is also vividly aware of the fragility physical, mental or both that has made him so insanely inconsistent and unreliable.

    Rental players, in general, don't garner huge returns because no one wants to mortgage the future for two months of production from an impending free agent particularly when it's a pitcher who is going to make, at most, a dozen starts. Occasionally a savvy GM can take advantage of one club's desperation, but in this case it became clear that nobody fully trusted Liriano. (Admit it, that includes you.)

    Based on the left-hander's recent run of success, fans were overrating their own asset and setting expectations too high, putting Ryan in an unfortunate position. There was literally no way he was going to be able to acquit himself in this situation; holding on to Liriano made no real sense and the impact offers weren't there.

    And sadly, I suspect he'll have a hard time making up for it in these final hours before Tuesday afternoon's deadline, because while trade chips like Denard Span and Josh Willingham are more appealing with multi-year contracts, they still don't have the kind of value that many fans want to believe.

    Jim Crikket had it right when he wrote two weeks ago that we should be prepared for disappointment during the days leading up to the deadline. In a season like this one, I guess we shouldn't have expected anything else.
    This article was originally published in blog: Hard Truths started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 101 Comments
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      Yeah, obviously I'm not surprised at the gnashing of teeth over this. I personally think Liriano's one bad game last week DID negatively affect the offers Ryan was getting and one good game Sunday wouldn't have helped. That implosion put to bed any misconception scouts might have had that Liriano was "fixed" during his exile to the bullpen. Same old Frankie... as likely to blow up as blow away hitters.

      I get that so many fans tend to overvalue their favorite players, but what I don't understand is the argument that the Twins should have offered this guy $12+ mil for next year. Especially when those arguments come from people who also claim the Twins need to rebuild for 2014 and beyond.

      Of course, I can't see the logic in risking the $12+ million on Liriano, regardless of whether you think 2013 is a wash or not. Talk about throwing money down a well.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      I watched Hernandez's 7/18 start in Fenway. His "slider" is a glorified cutter with no depth. He struggles to get his changeup over for strikes, and his fastball at 88-91 (4 seam) is meatball for righthanders. Why the FO would trade for a fly ball lefthander when TF favors righthanders already, is curious to me. At least Liriano had a reasonable HR/FB rate and was lights out against lefthanders. Hernandez gave up a bushel of hits to lefthanders with his "slider" and was destroyed several times by righthanders including a gigantic Cody Ross HR that left Fenway.

      Top it off, he kept his first pitch of the game, not first strikeout or out (ended up giving up a double to Ellsbury), suggesting a superstitious/crazy head.
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      I was in the camp favoring offering Frankie a fair extension, even overpaying for a year at $12M or getting the draft pick if he wouldn't be reasonable about an extension. However, I'm not going to declare this move as a bad one. How can you predict that? In fact, it's just as reasonable to predict that Pedro Hernandez will have a more productive career going forward than Frankie. Over the years, my guess is that, when I've disagreed with a Terry Ryan move, he's been proven right 70% of the time. Geez, I sure hated giving up Bullock for that no-stuff stiff Diamond.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      Would Hernandez rate some where around what Duensing was rated when he was brought up? Sounds like the stuff is about the same.
      Would another Duensing and Punto be that bad for a guy gone at the end of the season?
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      Some cats have nine lives, but maybe Frankie's a cat with nine deaths, and nine dead cat bounces! His 15K performance was probably just one more of his patented dead cat bounces. So, now the Chisox will coach him up, proving to tobynot jason and the rest that Rick Anderson is a pathetic incompetent (Frankie was coached by someone else when he performed well you see). What are the chances Frankie puts a string of decent performances together for Chicago, and then comes apart atthe seams again say, just in time for a playoff start. Yeah, I wish we could feel better about this trade, but...
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      Again--why all the comments over this trade. Liriano was going at the end of the season for nothing. No way, TR would offer him a $12million one-year contract to get the draft pick. Not even CC or Verlander is worth $12million a year. We got two guys who most likely are not worth much--but that is more than we would have gotten at the end of the season.

      Frankie has 10 starts (more or less) to demonstrate his value for next year. I doubt he will get an offer of $12million (total for 3 years) he is too up and down.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by DAM DC Twins Fans View Post
      Not even CC or Verlander is worth $12million a year.
      Um, yes they are. A CC/Verlander/Hernandez/Dickey/Weaver rotation for $60m a year?

      Yes, please.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by DAM DC Twins Fans View Post
      Again--why all the comments over this trade. Liriano was going at the end of the season for nothing. No way, TR would offer him a $12million one-year contract to get the draft pick. Not even CC or Verlander is worth $12million a year. We got two guys who most likely are not worth much--but that is more than we would have gotten at the end of the season.

      Frankie has 10 starts (more or less) to demonstrate his value for next year. I doubt he will get an offer of $12million (total for 3 years) he is too up and down.
      There is no leak yet of what Jr. turned down from other orgs - we can presume, based on prior comments to the media, that Jr weeded out lower ball, higher ceiling prospects in favor of the "ready to go" route and thus traded for 2 players who were currently on a MLB roster. Certainly no other club offered him that.

      We can't argue that other offers were "better" but we can bust him for the faulty approach which targets your typical low-budget patchwork of players that have failed for 21 years running.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      we can presume, based on prior comments to the media, that Jr weeded out lower ball, higher ceiling prospects in favor of the "ready to go" route and thus traded for 2 players who were currently on a MLB roster.
      Except for the part where Ryan said that he was targeting low ball, higher ceiling prospects during the deadline.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by rocketpig View Post
      Except for the part where Ryan said that he was targeting low ball, higher ceiling prospects during the deadline.
      See prior comments. He said the opposite as well, and traded thusly. Its clear his intention was to get a replacement level AAA type pitcher with few hours on the arb. clock.
    1. PopRiveter's Avatar
      PopRiveter -
      What's disappointing to me isn't the trade or the returns. It's the fact that a player with that kind of talent accomplished so little when given so many chances. Of course no one would trade high-end prospects for him. He's a coin flip with every outing. That makes for a fun and intriguing player, but not a really successful one.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      I watched Hernandez's 7/18 start in Fenway. His "slider" is a glorified cutter with no depth. He struggles to get his changeup over for strikes, and his fastball at 88-91 (4 seam) is meatball for righthanders. Why the FO would trade for a fly ball lefthander when TF favors righthanders already, is curious to me. At least Liriano had a reasonable HR/FB rate and was lights out against lefthanders. Hernandez gave up a bushel of hits to lefthanders with his "slider" and was destroyed several times by righthanders including a gigantic Cody Ross HR that left Fenway.

      Top it off, he kept his first pitch of the game, not first strikeout or out (ended up giving up a double to Ellsbury), suggesting a superstitious/crazy head.
      Perhaps the Twins like most teams viewed more than one freaking game when deciding to take a chance on Hernandez.

      Also FWIW: by your logic White Sox fans could say the exact same thing about Liriano when he gave up 3 HR and 7 ER in his last start against them.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      See prior comments. He said the opposite as well, and traded thusly. Its clear his intention was to get a replacement level AAA type pitcher with few hours on the arb. clock.
      So you're relying on a third-hand account of Ryan's wants versus what Ryan has said directly in interviews.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by SpiritofVodkaDave View Post
      Perhaps the Twins like most teams viewed more than one freaking game when deciding to take a chance on Hernandez.

      Also FWIW: by your logic White Sox fans could say the exact same thing about Liriano when he gave up 3 HR and 7 ER in his last start against them.
      His line that game is not what I tried explaining. I shared my observations of his "stuff" since that 1 appearance is the only thing freely available at this (if you have mlb.tv). If you have a milb.tv account then by all means tell us what we saw on 7/18 was slower, flatter, and more hittable than what is typical.

      Everyone knows Liriano will have days like Hernandez had, but he will have days where he is unhittable due to his raw stuff being better. Also the White Sox are purported to believe they can 'fix' Liriano. Based on a comparison of velocity and action, Hernandez will have days where he is shelled and no days where he is lights out, and can't be fixed due to far less talent.

      Hernandez is cheaper and walks fewer hitters, that's it.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by rocketpig View Post
      So you're relying on a third-hand account of Ryan's wants versus what Ryan has said directly in interviews.
      Do you think TR considers 2 players currently on a MLB roster to be low ball, high ceiling prospects? What he has done is in direct contradiction to what you claim he said he was after.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      Do you think TR considers 2 players currently on a MLB roster to be low ball, high ceiling prospects? What he has done is in direct contradiction to what you claim he said he was after.
      It all depends on what else he was offered for Liriano. We simply don't know what was on the table... that could have been all he was offered.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by rocketpig View Post
      So you're relying on a third-hand account of Ryan's wants versus what Ryan has said directly in interviews.
      Right. I don't know who Stark was quoting in that ESPN article because it's not attributed, but Ryan was quoted directly (and extensively) as saying that focusing on guys who could help next year would be a "terrible mistake." Here's the money quote:

      "You can go get a marginal Triple-A guy who might be here next year," he said. "Are you going to be satisfied passing up a high-ceiling guy? I wouldn't be, but everybody has their own philosophy on that."
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      Right. I don't know who Stark was quoting in that ESPN article because it's not attributed, but Ryan was quoted directly (and extensively) as saying that focusing on guys who could help next year would be a "terrible mistake." Here's the money quote:

      "You can go get a marginal Triple-A guy who might be here next year," he said. "Are you going to be satisfied passing up a high-ceiling guy? I wouldn't be, but everybody has their own philosophy on that."

      On the other hand, this is exactly what the interim did... I guess he has to admit that he made a mistake now...

      Actions speak louder than words. He can say a whole bunch of stuff. What he does is what matters, not what he says he's going to do. He said that he was going to fix the Twins medical stuff and waiting for Godot before they put people on the DL. Plouffe/Capps/Pavano happened.

      For some reason I do not believe a word that guy is saying.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      "Are you going to be satisfied passing up a high-ceiling guy?
      I view Ryan as a man of integrity, therefore lacking evidence to the contrary I assume no such offer was in hand.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      I view Ryan as a man of integrity, therefore lacking evidence to the contrary I assume no such offer was in hand.
      More importantly, he has no reason to not tell the fans the truth of the situation. Why on earth would he lie about wanting high ceiling guys and then go for the exact opposite unless he received no other offers?

      Occam has a razor he'd like to tell you about...
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