Francisco Liriano Rumors

Pirates Re-Sign Francisco Liriano

MONDAY: Liriano will receive a $2MM signing bonus, $11MM in 2015 and $13MM in 2016-17, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). His contract also calls for award bonuses, including as much as $325K per season based on Cy Young voting.

FRIDAY: The Pirates may have lost Russell Martin to free agency, but they were able to retain their other top free agent, as they announced on Friday the signing of Francisco Liriano to a three-year contract. Liriano, a client of the Legacy Agency’s Greg Genske, reportedly receives a $39MM guarantee.

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As Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review notes on Twitter, this deal would become the largest free agent contract in club history. For an organization that has seen its fortunes change over the last two years, the investment in a major free agent represents both a continuation and departure.

That contract lands just $1MM shy of the prediction of MLBTR’s Steve Adams before the offseason. As Steve wrote, there is a lot to like about Liriano, starting with the 323 1/3 frames of 3.20 ERA ball over the last two seasons. He achieved those results with numbers to support them: 9.4 K/9, 4.0 BB/9, and a 52.4% groundball rate. Liriano’s fastball velocity has achieved new life in Pittsburgh, and the club will look for that to continue.

Of course, there are downsides to any player, and Liriano is no exception. For one, he has never been one to rack up huge innings totals, though perhaps there is a bit of a silver lining there. Then there’s his less-than-inspiring history of injuries and inconsistency.

On the whole, however, three and $39MM seems quite a reasonable price for a pitcher with Liriano’s ability to dominate. Pittsburgh will give up the ability to add draft pick compensation, which it was in line to receive if Liriano had found a new home after declining a qualifying offer.

Robert Murray was first to report the agreement and the terms (via Twitter).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


AL Central Notes: Santana, Tigers

The Twins had interest in their own former pitcher Francisco Liriano on the free agent market, but when Liriano agreed to terms with the Pirates, the Twins quickly changed course and ended up with Ervin Santana, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press writes. He’s been very, very durable,” says Twins GM Terry Ryan, referring to Santana. “He’s got enough velocity (92-94 mph). He’s got a slider that is probably his best pitch. … He’s not afraid of the American League, which is another good thing. The (cold) weather is not scaring him off either, which is another good thing.” Berardino reports that Santana received good reviews of the Twins organization from Liriano, Alexi Casilla and Torii Hunter, all friends of his. Here’s more from the AL Central.

  • The Tigers‘ Winter Meetings trades added to their 2015 payroll but might end up saving them money, writes MLB.com’s Jason Beck. The Tigers added Yoenis Cespedes and Alfredo Simon while trading away Rick Porcello. MLBTR projects Porcello to make $12.2MM next season. Cespedes will make $10.5MM, while MLBTR projects Simon will make $5.1MM. Leaving aside other potential minimum-salary players included in the trades, that means the Tigers’ payroll increased by roughly $3MM. If the Tigers had kept Porcello and signed a free-agent outfielder, though, their payroll probably would have increased by considerably more than that.

Blue Jays Notes: Romo, Anthopoulos, Rule 5

Here’s the latest from Toronto…

  • The Blue Jays don’t appear to have checked in on Sergio Romo, Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith tweets.
  • The lack of interest in Romo may not be surprising, given what GM Alex Anthopoulos told reporters (including MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm) today.  The Jays are “probably turning our attention a little more to trades right now in terms of the relievers.  That’s not to say that’s how we’ll ultimately end up but….We’re exploring some trades right now that might make a little more sense for us.”
  • The costs were seemingly too high for the free agent relief arms and Anthopoulos also said there’s only so much the Jays are willing to give up in deals for bullpen help.  “We knew what the prices were in free agency and we weren’t prepared to go to that price point, and we’re still talking about some trades.  We’re not looking to trade our young, big league ready, or close to ready big league arms, for relievers. That’s not something we’re contemplating right now.”
  • The Jays are reportedly planning to “raid the Mets” during the minor league portion of tomorrow’s Rule 5 draft, ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin tweets.
  • The Jays had discussed Francisco Liriano before the lefty re-signed with the Pirates, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports.  With Liriano off the board, Elliott wonders if the Blue Jays will now target another second-tier starter in Brandon McCarthy.


Pitching Notes: Miller, Giants, Cards, Masterson, Axford

Before he joined the Yankees, the Astros actually offered Andrew Miller a deal that included not only four guaranteed years but also a fifth-year option, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports on Twitter. It remains to be seen how Houston will reallocate the funds it had earmarked for the lefty.

  • If the Giants miss on Jon Lester, they are more likely to go to the next tier of free agent pitchers than to go all out for Max Scherzer, per John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter). San Francisco could aim for options of the ilk of Ervin Santana and Francisco Liriano, says Shea, though it is not clear if those illustrative names or particular targets.
  • The Cardinals met with Scherzer at some point over the offseason and are at least weighing a run at him, Jon Heyman of CBSSportscom reports. It remains something of a longshot that Scherzer will land in St. Louis, Heyman notes, though the fact that he is from the area can’t hurt.
  • The Red Sox met with Justin Masterson over the weekend, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports on Twitter. The Twins, meanwhile, have not managed to gain traction with Masterson’s camp, Wolfson adds.
  • The MarlinsWhite Sox, and possibly Cubs will also sit down with Masterson in San Diego, Heyman reports.
  • Reliever John Axford has drawn interest from the Reds, though nothing is close and there are other teams involved, according to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com.

Quick Hits: Leake, Craig, Liriano, Masterson

Reds pitcher and regular MLBTR reader Mike Leake keeps track of offseason trade whispers but tries not to worry about them, Mark Sheldon of MLB.com writes.  “I’m curious. I check MLB Trade Rumors every day just to see what’s new,” says Leake, a potential trade candidate this winter. “There’s nothing you can do about it. You sit and wait and see if your name is thrown in a trade.” Leake notes that he would be happy to remain with the Reds, but would be understanding if they traded him.

  • If the Red Sox decide to deal Allen Craig, there will be interest despite his poor 2014 season, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes.  The Marlins and Brewers have had interest in the past, and one evaluator expresses confidence that Craig’s performance last season was derailed by injuries and not by a steep decline in ability.
  • Also from Cafardo, Francisco Liriano would be a good fit in either the NL or AL, but teams are concerned about giving him more than a three-year deal since he’s never been an innings-eater.  The Pirates remain interested in retaining him but not on a four-year contract.  Some executives feel the “tipping point” of Liriano’s market will be if at least one team is willing to give that fourth year, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets.
  • Liriano is one of the Pirates‘ top targets, sources tell Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
  • Justin Masterson has received a lot of interest but no actual offers yet, Fangraphs’ David Laurila reports.  Laurila suggested in a recent column that Masterson could be a good candidate to be converted to relief pitching, though no teams have approached him with that idea and Masterson wouldn’t be interested if they did.
  • Also from Laurila’s piece, he talks to Burke Badenhop and the righty reliever said he felt he improved his free agent stock by posting strong numbers against left-handed batters in 2014.
  • Ichiro Suzuki‘s market is “not hot,” agent John Boggs tells Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link).  Boggs is trying to push his client’s ability to play all three outfield spots and a bat that delivered a .284 average in 2014, hoping that teams won’t shy away because Ichiro is entering his age-41 season.
  • It would be surprising if the Rockies pulled off a blockbuster deal involving Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez during the Winter Meetings, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes.  “If I was a betting man, I sure wouldn’t put down money on a trade,” a Major League executive tells Saunders.  The likeliest scenario is that neither player is traded (if at all) until they’ve proven they’re healthy.

Twins Notes: Masterson, Liriano, Neshek

The Twins are focused on pitching upgrades this offseason, and here’s the latest on the arms that Minnesota is (or isn’t) currently exploring…

  • Justin Masterson was linked to the Twins earlier this winter but 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson reports (via Twitter) that “about every sign” indicates the Masterson will sign with another team.  The Twins aren’t scheduled to meet with Masterson during the Winter Meetings and the right-hander has already met with several teams over the last few days.
  • The Twins have been in touch with Francisco Liriano‘s agent throughout the offseason and they’re expected to meet Monday with Brett Anderson‘s agent, La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.  Anderson is looking for a short-term deal to rebuild his value after an injury-plagued 2014, while Liriano looks to command a significant multiyear guarantee.  Neal (via Twitter) doubts the Twins would surrender the draft pick it would take to sign Liriano, who rejected the Pirates’ qualifying offer.
  • Also from Neal, the Twins are one of over a dozen teams who have checked in on Pat Neshek this offseason.  Neshek was originally drafted by Minnesota in 2002 and pitched for the team from 2006-10.
  • The Twins have called about right-hander Ryan Vogelsong, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.  Vogelsong has a 3.74 ERA, 2.35 K/BB, 7.05 K/9 and 42.4% grounder rate over the last four seasons with the Giants, throwing at least 179 2/3 IP in three out of those four years.
  • Before Jason Frasor re-signed with the Royals, the Twins made a push to land the righty reliever, agent Dave Meier told Berardino.  “The Twins had a lot of interest in him,” Meier said. “They stepped up and made an early offer. We were definitely considering that along with Kansas City and a couple other teams. The Twins were one of a select few clubs as we kind of narrowed things down.”

Jon Lester Rumors: Sunday

Here’s the latest on free agent ace Jon Lester.

  • The Giants are “very serious” about Lester, but are considering possible alternatives in case Lester doesn’t sign with them, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes. Those alternatives include free agents Ervin Santana, Francisco Liriano, Max Scherzer and James Shields, along with potential trade target Cole Hamels.
  • It looks like at least two teams have bid more than $130MM for Lester, Heyman writes. The Cubs, Red Sox, Giants and Dodgers are all contenders for Lester, but the Cubs are reportedly trying to separate themselves, with an offer that could top $140MM. Lester appears likely to pick a new team by the end of this week’s Winter Meetings.

Twins Notes: Coaches, Yang, Pitching Targets, Hunter, Duensing

The Twins announced the hiring of longtime Orioles minor league coach Butch Davis as their first base coach yesterday, adding to their recent list of coaching additions. While they’ve drawn a bit of flak for keeping most of their hires in-house, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports (Twitter link) that Minnesota reached out to recently dismissed Cubs skipper Rick Renteria about the bench coach vacancy (since filled by internal candidate Joe Vavra), but Renteria declined to interview. Similarly, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that the Twins wanted Delino DeShields to serve as their first base coach, but he took a position managing the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate, as his ultimate goal is to manage in the Majors someday.

Here’s more on the Twins…

  • GM Terry Ryan told reporters yesterday, including La Valle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, that Minnesota did not win the bidding for Korean lefty Hyeon-jong Yang (Twitter link). There was some confusion as to whether the Twins or Rangers won the bidding, with some speculating that they made very similar bids. The point is moot, regardless, as the KIA Tigers did not accept the winning bid for their top pitcher’s services, as it was deemed too low.
  • The Twins have interest in right-hander Edinson Volquez, reports Wolfson. Additionally, they’ve had conversations with agent Greg Genske, who represents both Francisco Liriano and Brett Anderson. Minnesota is expected to meet with Justin Masterson‘s agent next week at the Winter Meetings, and they met with CAA (the agency that represents Jake Peavy and Nori Aoki) at last month’s GM Meetings, Wolfson adds. However, there’s no real traction on either CAA client at this time.
  • Wolfson also tweets that the Twins have made an official offer to Torii Hunter, who is expected to reach a decision soon. The Rangers are said to be pushing hard for Hunter, who reportedly prefers to sign with a contender. That makes a return to Minnesota seem doubtful.
  • The Twins have given no indication that they plan to non-tender southpaw reliever Brian Duensing today, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Duensing, 31, is projected to earn $2.5MM in arbitration and was listed by MLBTR as a non-tender candidate.

NL Notes: Tomas, Liriano, Marlins, Harper, Braves, Gattis

The Phillies never made an offer for outfielder Yasmany Tomas, agent Jay Alou Jr. tells Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Alou said that the club was engaged throughout the process, but that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. gave the impression that he had to “clear salary” before he could put dollars on the table. “His hands were tied,” Alou said in reference to Amaro. For his part, Amaro said only that “it was clear the Diamondbacks valued him higher than we did.” The ownership group has not created any “impediments” to his baseball operations staff, he added.

More from the National League:

  • With a line of quality pitchers queuing up behind Jon Lester and company, the Pirates are staying engaged with their own outgoing free agents, Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Twitter link). Dejan Kovacevic recently reported that the club hoped to return both hurlers, even after adding A.J. Burnett.
  • Indeed, Pittsburgh is making clear to agents of other free agent starters that Liriano is their top priority on the rotation market, according to Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reports. Though the Bucs would stand to give up the sandwich pick they would receive were Liriano to sign elsewhere, he has been quite a valuable contributor to the team’s winning ways over the last two seasons.
  • The Marlins are unlikely to lock down any new extensions before the Winter Meetings, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com tweets, though that does not mean that the team is not making a legitimate effort to work out more deals. With offers on the table or soon to be delivered to several young players, the team appears to be making a push to follow the model that the Braves pursued last year.
  • Bryce Harper and the Nationals are headed towards a grievance in December to resolve the long-lingering question whether his contract permits him to opt into arbitration, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. (To understand the background, read this post from last November.) Rosenthal wonders whether the Nats would be better served not fighting the point, if the club hopes to have a shot at extending Harper.
  • As the Braves continue to weigh their trade options, the team is more likely to deal Justin Upton than to move both he and Evan Gattis, Mark Bowman of MLB.com tweets. The team has still not ruled out a scenario in which both players are traded, though that would obviously create quite a void in the middle of the team’s lineup.
  • Interestingly, the Braves had extended discussions earlier this offseason with the Astros about Gattis, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Atlanta wanted Houston to take a pairing of Gattis and the struggling B.J. Upton in a trade, but that involved too much payroll for the latter to stomach. The Braves expressed interest in both Dexter Fowler and Carlos Corporan in the talks. Rosenthal says that the original line of discussion faded, but that other talks involving Gattis could arise between the teams in the future.

Quick Hits: Liriano, Miller, Papelbon

Max Scherzer tops the list of free agents who could wait until the new year to sign, Jim Duquette writes for MLB.com. Perhaps it’s no surprise that three of the five players on the list, including Scherzer, are represented by Scott Boras, who often prefers to wait for the market to come to him. Duquette suggests that one potential late signee who isn’t a Boras client is Francisco Liriano, who has a qualifying offer attached and who has topped 163 innings in a season only once in his career. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • Andrew Miller‘s next deal will almost certainly be for four years and will set a record for a non-closer relief pitcher, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes. (Jeremy Affeldt‘s current three-year, $18MM deal holds that record, Heyman notes.) Miller and his agent have pared his list of interested teams down to eight; their identities aren’t known, although Heyman notes that the Red Sox and Orioles have shown interest, while the Tigers are said to lack the necessaryfinancial means. A recent report from Baltimore, however, indicated that the O’s were out on Miller.
  • Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon appears to have little trade value and isn’t generating interest from teams like the Blue Jays and Astros, Heyman tweets. Despite being the subject of longstanding worries about his velocity and strikeout rate, Papelbon has gotten good results in each of his three seasons in Philadelphia, so as Heyman suggests, it might seem odd that there isn’t more of a market. His $13MM option for 2016, which will vest if he finishes 48 games next season, might be one source of concern, along with his vanishing peripherals.