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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. Rube's Avatar
      Rube -
      Below is from Ken Rosenthal of Fox sports on July 9, 2012:

      GAMBLING ON LIRIANO


      Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano is 3-2 with a 2.74 ERA in eight starts since returning to the team’s rotation, but most clubs still are wary of trading for him.

      Liriano, even during this period of relative prosperity, is averaging 4.4 walks per nine innings. The Braves have been linked to him, but why would they want a potential free agent, who is no more trustworthy than their young starters?


      Better the Braves should trade for Greinke — or better still, Rays right-hander James Shields, who is earning $7 million this season, with club options of $9 million next season and $12 million in 2014.

      Some clubs like Liriano better as a reliever. And it’s doubtful that any will part with significant prospects when under the new collective bargaining agreement, there is no possibility of draft-pick compensation if he leaves as a free agent.

      The Twins, by the way, will listen not just on Liriano. Closer Matt Capps, recovering from right shoulder inflammation, also will be available once he comes off the disabled list, sources say.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      On the other hand, this is exactly what the interim did... I guess he has to admit that he made a mistake now...
      He said it would be a mistake to pass up a high-ceiling guy. There is no evidence that we was offered any such prospects; in fact, I'd say the fact that he had to settle on Hernandez and Escobar is a strong indication that he wasn't.

      Opposing teams just didn't value Liriano the way we hoped they would. You can sit there and cast blame on Ryan or you can come to terms with the truth of the situation.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      There is of course the option to float rumors of extending Liriano so as to bait potential buyers, rather than desperately shopping him to anyone who will listen.
    1. IdahoPilgrim's Avatar
      IdahoPilgrim -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      For the record, i object to the term "nobody."
      Duly noted - I should have said "almost nobody" or even better, "very few".
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Again, the real hard lesson is that to get quality, you have to give up quality.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      There is of course the option to float rumors of extending Liriano so as to bait potential buyers, rather than desperately shopping him to anyone who will listen.
      This.

      A club virtually bereft of quality SPs, let alone a quality "power" SP, basically gives away their only option- of any kind- at "P"SP. It is constantly preached that quality starting pitchers don't come cheaply and to wit, the Twins made curious-to-ridiculous long-term deals to the likes of utter mediocrities in Pavano and Blackburn. The play here obviously should have either been in bluffing on their intentions on Liriano long-term to drive up his value or playing chicken on the one-year @ $12Mil for the Pick or one more year of service- with the chance to deal him during 2013. The defenders of Ryan and ownership are mind-boggling. It's well-past obvious that new-blood and agressive, forward-thinking is needed desperately in this organization.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      If there was no plan to offer him 12.5M, then they had to trade him. Here's the question, would Liriano accept 12.5M for a one year offer? That right there is half of the FA budget for pitchers, several of whom could be had cheaper and were far more likely to succeed. The Twins' FO pretty clearly thought that playing chicken with Liriano on a 1 year deal was flushing 12M down the toilet, so trading was all they could do. And extending him... exactly when? He clearly didn't want to do it now, and you cannot blame him. Do you do it after the 2010 season? 2011? There's risk there, and it's clearly risk the front office wanted nothing to do with. I do agree they need to be abit less risk averse, but I'm not sure that Liriano is the poster child example for this.

      I highly doubt that there were better offers on the table for Liriano, and if 12.5M wasn't an option, you take what Chicago offered...
    1. MrHockey's Avatar
      MrHockey -
      The White Sox say they can make him better? May be he will chew even more gum--wasn't that the key to his most recent success? I hope the Twins light him up on Tuesday. Be patient, don't swing at the slider unless it is up in the zone then swing away.
    1. DPJ's Avatar
      DPJ -
      I actually kind of believe Don Cooper could fixed Liriano's machanics and I hope he does so it puts even more light onto the fact that Rick Anderson isn't a good pitching coach.
    1. rickyhawaii's Avatar
      rickyhawaii -
      it's the same as last year pretty much. was hoping the Twins would have traded for rebuilding instead of letting guys go. The Twins are either overvaluing their players or bluffing on asking prices right now.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by diehardtwinsfan View Post
      If there was no plan to offer him 12.5M, then they had to trade him. And extending him... exactly when? He clearly didn't want to do it now, and you cannot blame him. Do you do it after the 2010 season? 2011? There's risk there, and it's clearly risk the front office wanted nothing to do with. I do agree they need to be abit less risk averse, but I'm not sure that Liriano is the poster child example for this.

      I highly doubt that there were better offers on the table for Liriano, and if 12.5M wasn't an option, you take what Chicago offered...
      They didn't necessarily NEED to extend him, just get the "message" out that they were trying everything possible in an attempt to extend him. And you are right, there weren't better offers on the table for Liriano, partly because of the Twins inability to play poker.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by MrHockey View Post
      The White Sox say they can make him better? May be he will chew even more gum--wasn't that the key to his most recent success? I hope the Twins light him up on Tuesday. Be patient, don't swing at the slider unless it is up in the zone then swing away.
      Easy for you to say...
    1. dwintheiser's Avatar
      dwintheiser -
      Going to agree with you on this one, Nick. Anybody who thought Liriano was in a class with the other pitchers acquired at the deadline this year was sadly delusional. Here's the evidence:

      A) 5-7, 3.94 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 8.2 K/9, age 28
      B) 9-3, 3.44 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, age 28
      C) 7-9, 3.82 ERA, 1.295 WHIP, 6.2 K/9, age 33
      D) 3-10, 5.31 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 9.8 K/9, age 28

      A = Anibal Sanchez, B = Zack Greinke, C = Wandy Rodriguez, D = Francisco Liriano
      All stats are this season prior to being traded.

      And if you want to go back to last year, it doesn't look any better:

      A) 8-9, 3.67 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 9.3 K/9
      B) 16-6, 3.83 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 10.5 K/9
      C) 11-11, 3.49 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 7.8 K/9
      D) 9-10, 5.09 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 7.5 K/9

      Liriano was clearly not in the same class as the other pitchers on the block, and thus clearly did not warrant the same kind of consideration from other clubs.
    1. Oxtung's Avatar
      Oxtung -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      They didn't necessarily NEED to extend him, just get the "message" out that they were trying everything possible in an attempt to extend him. And you are right, there weren't better offers on the table for Liriano, partly because of the Twins inability to play poker.
      This doesn't make any sense. The Twins talking about resigning Liriano doesn't drive demand. What drives demand is a product that is valued by several buyers. If other teams don't think Liriano is valuable no amount of posturing by the Twins is going to change that. Liriano's inconsistencies, better pitchers available and buyers only getting ~12 starts is what drove the asking price.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Oxtung View Post
      This doesn't make any sense. The Twins talking about resigning Liriano doesn't drive demand. What drives demand is a product that is valued by several buyers. If other teams don't think Liriano is valuable no amount of posturing by the Twins is going to change that. Liriano's inconsistencies, better pitchers available and buyers only getting ~12 starts is what drove the asking price.
      You obviously play craps.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by rocketpig View Post
      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...
      He would change tunes if after saying he wanted high upsided guys, Dave St. Peter told him he wasn't going to have much payroll to work with next year and might want to think about getting MLB ready arms instead to fill out the rotation.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by dwintheiser View Post
      Going to agree with you on this one, Nick. Anybody who thought Liriano was in a class with the other pitchers acquired at the deadline this year was sadly delusional. Here's the evidence:



      Liriano was clearly not in the same class as the other pitchers on the block, and thus clearly did not warrant the same kind of consideration from other clubs.
      I don't recall anybody claiming that Liriano was in the same class with the other deadline pitchers. What he did have on his resume were two dominant seasons over his 6+ year career. "Selling the dream" and giving hope at recapturing that magic was part of what Twins' management needed to put at the forefront of their marketing scheme.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      I don't recall anybody claiming that Liriano was in the same class with the other deadline pitchers.
      Someone put Liriano and Anibal Sanchez into the same class just yesterday.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      He would change tunes if after saying he wanted high upsided guys, Dave St. Peter told him he wasn't going to have much payroll to work with next year and might want to think about getting MLB ready arms instead to fill out the rotation.
      Wild speculation and given Ryan's statements, doesn't change the fact that he'd still probably go for higher upside guys in the low minors for the long-term health of the franchise.

      We all know that Ryan is not averse to signing budget starters (gag).
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by snepp View Post
      Someone put Liriano and Anibal Sanchez into the same class just yesterday.
      Above Sanchez actually.
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