After many teams reportedly showed some interest in him by scouting his recent starts, the Minnesota Twins have traded pitcher Francisco Liriano to the Chicago White Sox for infielder Eduardo Escobar and left-handed pitcher Pedro Hernandez.
Liriano is 3-10 with a 5.31 ERA this season over 22 appearances (17 starts) and 100 innings. Even with a poor outing his most recent start, against the White Sox as it were, he is still 3-5 with a 3.68 ERA and a solid 79:29 K/BB ratio over 11 starts (66 innings) since late May when he returned to the Twins’ starting rotation after being demoted to the bullpen. The White Sox are currently leading the American League Central, and if Liriano can be healthy and continue his recent run of good pitching they have a better chance at staying there down the stretch. The fact he is due to become a free agent after the season makes it a very low-risk, high upside move for White Sox general manager Kenny Williams.
Escobar is hitting just .195 this season over 82 at-bats (92 plate appearances) for the White Sox, but he brings versatility to the table as he has seen time at second base, shortstop, third base and in left field this season. The 23-year old has a more extensive minor league track record with over 2,100 at-bats over six seasons (2006-2011), but his career numbers, including a .270 batting average, .315 on-base percentage and 75 stolen bases, across all minor league levels suggests his offensive upside is fairly limited.
Hernandez is 23 years old like Escobar and made one start for the White Sox this season, his major league debut, allowing eight runs and 12 hits over four innings against the Boston Red Sox back on July 18. In 428.1 career innings in the minors, he is 33-13 with a 3.42 ERA along with 360 strikeouts, 78 walks and 32 home runs allowed. Hernandez was acquired by Chicago from the San Diego Padres as part of the trade that sent outfielder Carlos Quentin to the Padres last offseason.
At first glance, it feels like the Twins did not get a lot for Liriano, but the fact he was coming off a poor outing certainly didn’t do his trade value any favors. Escobar was ranked by Baseball Prospectus as one of the top 10 prospects in the White Sox organization prior to this season, so it’s at least fair to think he has room to develop into a better offensive player while maintaining his above-average defensive ability. Hernandez has experience as a starter and reliever in the minor leagues, and could be used in either capacity by the Twins over the rest of the season as they try to determine who will comprise their pitching staff in 2013.
The Twins need to add some talent and potential to a minor league system largely bereft of both, so they appear to have at least accomplished that on some level with this trade. The jury may remain out on who got the better of the deal for a couple years due to Escobar and Hernandez’s relative youth and Liriano’s history of inconsistency, and Terry Ryan was able to get a solid stable of prospects in past trades involving Chuck Knoblauch and A.J. Pierzynski during his initial run as Twins’ general manager prior to taking back the post on an interim basis last November. Ryan has suggested that the team did not want to be “left with nothing” if Liriano left as a free agent after the season, with further comments suggesting neither side brought up the prospect of a contract extension at any point this season.