Minnesota Twins: Reevaluating the Francisco Liriano Trade
When the Minnesota Twins traded starting pitcher Francisco Liriano last season for Eduardo Escobar and Pedro Hernandez, the organization thought that they were selling an inconsistent pitcher at his highest value. Liriano had been a Jekyll and Hyde type of pitcher all season for the Twins and the team was starting to lose patience with the pitcher they once thought would be their ace for years to come; but as much as Liriano frustrated the Twins, he still demonstrated flashes of brilliance which was enough to tease the Twins into thinking Liriano still could get it done in the majors. The Twins flirted with the idea of bringing Liriano back this off-season, but ultimately were unable to reach a deal with the left-hander who wound up in Pittsburgh. With over half of the season in the books, the value of the Liriano trade can be reassessed and early indications show that the Twins may have received an unequal return for their left-handed starter.
No matter how you felt about Liriano, the pitcher possessed one thing that no other Twins’ pitcher had: swing and miss potential. Liriano demonstrated such ability when he burst onto the scene with the Twins in 2006, despite four minor starts in late 2005, but suffered an injury late in ’06 that cost the left-hander all of 2007 and set him back a few seasons. People around the Twins’ organization began to question if Liriano could ever be the same and if 2013 is any indication, Liriano is proving those doubters wrong.
On the season, Liriano is 10-4 with a 2.23 ERA, 1.184 WHIP and 9.3 SO/BB over 88.2 innings in 14 starts. Doubters may point to Liriano pitching in the National League as evidence for his strong season, but Liriano has passed the eye-test of a dominant pitcher and looks like a confident hurler for the first time in a few years. While Liriano continues to build off his successes in Pittsburgh, the Twins are left sorting through the haul that they received for their once promising lefty.
Escobar proved to be a serviceable utility-infielder, but never could hold down much more of a role with the Twins. For the year, Escobar is hitting .214 with three homeruns and nine RBI over 143 plate appearances in 55 games. Escobar also demonstrated solid defensive skills during his playing time in 2013, but it was his inability to grab a significant role at the majors that ultimately led to his demotion to Triple-A. Escobar, 24, is still young and needed to play every day so he could continue to develop and the Twins could continue to evaluate him. Since Escobar is so young, it is tough to determine if how much value he will bring the organization compared to Liriano.
Hernandez, on the other hand, has shown flashes of serviceability during 2013, but never displayed the kind of ability that proved he would ever become more than a long-reliever or spot starter in the majors. On the year Hernandez is 3-1 with a 5.54 ERA, a 1.688 WHIP and a 11.3 H/9 over 37.1 innings in nine games, seven of which were starts. Hernandez, also 24, is a soft-tossing pitcher that can be serviceable in short stints at the majors, but likely will never become more than what Liriano could have offered the Twins.
In the end, if you truly evaluate the Liriano trade, the Twins didn’t get equal value in the trade; however, the trade did occur with division rival Chicago—who no longer has Liriano—so that in itself could sway the value and perception of the trade for Liriano. The Twins received two serviceable players in exchange for a two month rental by Chicago and although Liriano is having a great year in Pittsburgh, the Twins still received value for Liriano from a division rival. Would the Twins still love to have Liriano and did they have a chance to get him this off-season? Absolutely, but things didn’t end up the way the Twins would have liked. The Twins should be happy for what they got in the trade because if the Twins would have stood pat, they may have wound up with nothing—instead of two future serviceable pieces—for Liriano.
While it may not be as glamorous as having a dominant front-of-the-rotation starter, the Twins did end up with something from the Liriano trade and if I have learned anything over my years as a sports fan, something is always better than nothing.