Sunday, February 6, 2011

Drawing inferences from the Francisco Liriano contract

Francisco Liriano is to be paid $4.3 million in 2011.
The Twins and Francisco Liriano reached an agreement Saturday on a one-year deal that avoids an arbitration hearing.

What intrigues me most about this is that the Twins opted against pursuing a multi-year deal. General manager Bill Smith, as quoted by blogger Seth Stohs:

"We are going to go year-to-year with Liriano, at least for one more year. We definitely recognize the risk in doing that and if he has another big year, it will cost us some money.”

Interesting. Liriano doesn't become free-agent eligible until after the 2012 season, and relatively few players agree during their arbitration years to contracts that eat into their free agency years, but last winter the Twins brought out the arbitration rights of Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn, and they've done the same with other pitchers (Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain) in the past.

But not Liriano. 

Now, maybe Liriano and his agent are also inclined to go year-to-year in hopes of a big season. But Smith's quote implies that the team has decided it's better off not making a major commitment to the lefty.

The risk is obvious. Liriano's record has not caught up to his stuff and his leading indicator stats. If/when it does, as Smith says, "it will cost us."

The inference I draw: The Twins doubt that Liriano will stay healthy. He's already lost two seasons of his young professional career to arm miseries. He is not a master of repeating his delivery. 

I really wonder how seriously the Twins will try to retain Liriano when he hits free agency. If they're not eager to buy out his arbitration rights now, I doubt they'll make a four-year, or even three-year, commitment to him down the road. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm not sure it's so much that the Twins "doubt" Liriano will stay healthy as that they aren't willing to bet big money that he will. Even if he has another good year, his injury history won't disappear.

    I suspect this is another example of the Twins adjusting their operating model to their new status as a mid-high revenue team. When payroll was significantly restricted, they pretty much had to lock up young players that showed promise. Now, they can afford to pay him more if he does prove reliable, rather than having to extend him early and hope he stays healthy or risk losing him.

    As for how hard they will try to keep him down the road, that will depend not only on his performance in 2011, but also perhaps young pitchers like Gibson. If they think they have others of Liriano's caliber available, they not only won't try too hard to extend Liriano, but may even consider trading him next offseason.