Francisco Liriano can be an inspiration to Stephen Strasburg, if the Nationals phenom has patience. Liriano took the American League by storm for 121 innings in 2006, but went down for Tommy John surgery in November of that year. In 2010, Liriano is again considered one of the best pitchers in the league.
The Minnesota lefty was handled cautiously in '08, as Strasburg probably will be in 2012. Three rough starts in April of '08 earned Liriano an extended stay in Triple A, long enough to prompt his agent Greg Genske to have the players union investigate potential service time manipulation. Had Liriano spent all of '08 in the bigs, he'd have about 100 extra days of service time and would have been eligible for arbitration after that season and for free agency after the 2011 season. An extra month or so in the Majors in '08 would've made Liriano eligible for arbitration for '09 as a Super Two.
Instead, 2011 will be Liriano's second arbitration year and he'll be eligible for free agency after '12. Liriano will be 29 heading into the 2012-13 offseason, and could earn a massive free agent contract. If there's any lingering bad blood from '08, you have to wonder if he'll continue going year-to-year.
On the other hand, Liriano could seek the security of an extension this winter in the Zack Greinke/Josh Johnson model. Greinke and Johnson were coming off low first-year arbitration salaries a touch below Liriano's current $1.6MM due to similar bumps in the road. They signed for four years and $38-39MM.