Francisco Liriano Rumors

Rob Antony Talks Twins’ Offseason, Future

For the fourth straight year, Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony sat down with Jesse Lund of SB Nation's Twinkie Town to discuss the state of affairs with his team. Antony and Lund discussed the Twins' offseason at length, ranging from the trades of Denard Span and Ben Revere to the Twins' pursuit of starting pitching. Here's a look at some of the highlights, but bear in mind that entire piece is well worth your time…

  • The Twins never intended to trade both Revere and Span, but the Phillies' offer of Trevor May and Vance Worley was too strong not to pull the trigger. Antony identifies May as someone who could get a September call-up in 2013 if he enjoys a strong season.
  • The Twins had conversations with both Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano, but were unable to agree to terms with either one. In particular, the Twins sought a club option for Baker, who wanted strictly a one-year deal. Antony said they didn't want 2013 to "be a donation" to Baker in the event that he wasn't healthy and effective for most of the season. That decision looks wise, with Baker on the 60-day disabled list for the Cubs.
  • Mike Pelfrey identified the Twins as a team he wanted to pitch for and was aggressive in working out a deal, according to Antony. The Twins did quite a bit of homework on Pelfrey's recovery from Tommy John surgery in order to ascertain that the right-hander would indeed be ready for Opening Day, as he promised.
  • The Twins made several "competitive offers" to free agent starting pitchers, in some cases making better offers than the ones those pitchers ultimately took. The Twins had conversations with nearly every free agent starting pitcher and spoke with around 15 agents for pitchers at the Winter Meetings in December.
  • Following the Span trade, most teams didn't believe that the team would also trade Revere. Antony says four teams were in the mix for Revere, but the Phillies were the most aggressive and ultimately landed him with the aforementioned offer.
  • The Twins were willing to do a one-for-one swap of Span and Alex Meyer because they believe Meyer is a legitimate front-of-the-rotation candidate who can be a "dominant" strikeout pitcher.
  • The decision to bring Aaron Hicks north as the team's Opening Day center fielder was a result of Hicks' strong play in Spring Training and his poise off the field. The Twins' front office was never overly concerned with delaying Hicks' free agency by a season: "If he's that good of a player we're going to do what we can to sign him long term and none of that's going to matter."
  • Antony, GM Terry Ryan and the rest of the front office prefer to gradually expose their top prospects to the Major Leagues so as not to field a team of all rookies. Additionally, that line of thinking prevents mass arbitration and free agency issues: "If you can bring a couple guys, a couple rookies in each year, it helps infuse that and it helps to spread it out so that not everybody becomes arbitration eligible at the same time or free agents at the same time, all that stuff."
  • The Twins "admire" the Royals' bullpen of power arms and would like to build a similar bullpen. The team prioritized power arms in the 2012 Draft, selecting a number of hard-throwing college relievers.
  • Antony offered a definitive "No," when asked if the team had interest in Aaron Harang prior to his trade to the Mariners. The Twins feel they have a number of similar arms in the organization already.
  • There's been no contact between the Twins and Jim Thome for "a couple of months," and the two were never on the same page. Minnesota had interest in Thome, but they were far apart in discussions.
  • "It would be great if he could be a Twin for life," Antony said of Justin Morneau. "He's a guy who's meant a lot for this organization and we'd love it if he were to play his entire career here, but you just don't know how things are going to work out in the end."
  • Antony feels that too much has been made of the decision not to extend Ron Gardenhire prior to this season. Many have speculated that Gardenhire is on the hot seat following a pair of 90-loss seasons, but Antony said it was intended to be an organization-wide message that they're looking to get better from top to bottom. He adds that he hopes Gardenhire is the Twins' manager for years to come, and that in three years people are surprised there was even a debate.

2014 Vesting Options

Recently, I crunched the numbers on vesting options from the last three years and found that just over 29% of them were triggered.  Which players can lock in their 2014 options based on their performance this season?  Let's take a look..

  • Kurt Suzuki, Nationals: $9.25MM option vests with 113 starts in 2013.
  • Jamey Carroll, Twins: $2MM option vests with 401 plate appearances.
  • Wilson Betemit, Orioles: $3.2MM option vests with 324 plate appearances (combined 700 between 2012 and 2013).
  • Lance Berkman, Rangers: $13MM option vests with 550 plate appearances.
  • Roy Halladay, Phillies: $20MM option vests with 259 innings pitched (combined 415 innings pitched between '12 and '13).
  • Barry Zito, Giants: $18MM option vests with 200 innings pitched.
  • Johan Santana, Mets: $25MM option vests with 215 innings pitched or winning the 2013 Cy Young Award.

It's also worth noting that Francisco Liriano has a $8MM club option for 2014 with the Pirates, but it can vest at any of three levels, $5MM, $6MM, or $8MM, based on the number of days he is not on the DL this year with a recurrence of his right arm injury.


Pirates Sign Francisco Liriano

10:52pm: If Liriano's option year vests at $5MM or $6MM, he can earn the difference between that and the full $8MM based on games started in 2014, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.

10:13pm: The Pirates confirmed the signing via press release.  Liriano will be guaranteed just $1MM in 2013 and can earn up to $4.75MM through incentives in 2013 based on time spent on the DL due to his right arm injury, a source tells Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (on Twitter).  The left-hander can still make the original $12.75MM, however, if he stays healthy and has his option vest at $8MM (Twitter link).  That option's value could be worth just $5MM or $6MM based on missed time.

12:27pm: Long after initially agreeing to terms, the Pirates have finalized their two-year agreement with free agent left-hander Francisco Liriano. Liriano passed his physical and his deal with the Pirates is now official, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (on Twitter). 

The deal now includes language that protects the Pirates in case Liriano misses time due to an injury to his non-throwing arm, Rosenthal reports. Liriano will still earn $12.75MM if he misses no time due to the right arm injury, but his 2013 salary would be reduced if he does miss time because of the injury, which occurred last month.

Francisco Liriano - White Sox (PW)

Liriano, a client of the Legacy Agency, pitched for the Twins and White Sox this past season. He posted a 5.34 ERA with 9.6 K/9, 5.0 BB/9 and a 43.8% ground ball rate in 156 2/3 innings. It marked the second consecutive season that Liriano pitched to an ERA above 5.00 while walking 5.0 batters per nine innings. His last standout season came in 2010, when he posted a 3.62 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9, generating some Cy Young votes.

However, as a hard-throwing 29-year-old left-hander (his fastball averaged 93 mph in 2012) with a history of success at the MLB level, Liriano was definitely going to draw interest as a free agent. The Mets and Twins were also linked to him this offseason.

As MLBTR's Free Agent Tracker shows, Liriano's contract resembles recent deals signed by free agents Hisashi Iwakuma ($14MM for two years), Joe Blanton ($15MM for two years) and Brandon McCarthy ($15.5MM for two years).

Liriano joins A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonald in Pittsburgh's rotation. It's unclear whether GM Neal Huntington will continue seeking pitching depth at this stage in the offseason.

Liriano ranked 28th on MLBTR's list of top 50 free agentsKyle Lohse remains the top free agent starter available.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Mike Axisa and Zach Links contributed to this post. La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune first reported the agreement, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported its value, and Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review first reported the right arm injury.



Quick Hits: Johnson, Boras, Givens, Reds, Lowe

The newest member of the Rays organization, Kelly Johnson, spoke with reporters on a conference call earlier today about his signing with Tampa Bay. The veteran second baseman/outfielder said he respected the Rays way of playing baseball under manager Joe Maddon, which made joining the franchise an easy decision. "I wasn't surprised they were interested. I knew if I wanted to go to Tampa I had to be willing to move around. They called and I was happy hear from them."

Here is what's happening around the league…

  • Scott Boras denied his involvement with the planting of a rumor about his client Jose Valverde and an imminent deal with the Marlins, reports Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald
  • Mychal Givens will no longer play shortstop in the minors for the Orioles, but rather try his hand at pitching, writes Steve Melewski of MASNSports.com
  • Reds GM Walt Jocketty has yet to hear any updates from Scott Rolen while he remains at a stalemate with his four remaining arbitration-eligible players, says Mark Sheldon of MLB.com.
  • Francisco Liriano's deal with the Pirates remains on track to become official, but will not do so until his non-throwing arm heals so the veteran can take a physical, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).
  • Derek Lowe will wait to see what other offers come his way after passing on a minor league deal from the Rockies, writes Troy Renck of the Denver Post (on Twitter). 

Quick Hits: Pirates, Liriano, Indians, Aviles, Rockies

Links from around baseball as Friday turns into Saturday..

  • Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington is non-committal about the likelihood of finalizing a deal with Francisco Liriano before the start of spring training, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.  “The process continues,” Huntington said. “We have ongoing conversations. I'm not an oddsmaker, so I don't know if it is likely or unlikely that we will add another pitcher.
  • Indians GM Chris Antonetti says that it's hard to quantify the odds of the team working out a deal with Mike Aviles to avoid arbitration, writes MLB.com's Jordan Bastian.  As MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker shows, Aviles filed for a $3.4MM contract while Cleveland is offering $2.4MM.
  • The Rockies' biggest offseason addition has been the acquisition of reliever Wilton Lopez from the Astros, but they shouldn't be overlooked in 2013, writes Tracy Ringolsby of MLB.com

NL Notes: Braves, Reds, Pirates, Duda, Chipper

It was on this date in 1871 the Boston Red Stockings incorporated giving birth to today's Atlanta Braves. Let's take a look at the news from the 21st century Braves and the rest of the National League:

  • The Braves have enough payroll space to add one significant salary and have yet to rule out Michael Bourn or Justin Upton, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. O'Brien adds GM Frank Wren has spoken with Bourn's agent Scott Boras, but they didn't start any negotiations. O'Brien also has been told manager Fredi Gonzalez contacted Bourn within the past few weeks. In regards to Upton, O'Brien sees the Braves and Rangers as the last two teams standing, but neither seems willing to match what the Mariners offered in their failed bid to acquire the outfielder.
  • O'Brien, via Twitter, discounts the suggestion the Braves have yet to acquire Bourn or Upton to save payroll in order to sign Martin Prado to a long-term deal. 
  • It's been nearly a decade since the Reds had to go to an arbitration hearing, but this year could be different, writes MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. "We're hopeful we can get something done," Reds GM Walt Jocketty said of the six players with whom salary figures were exchanged. "Some of the spreads were significant. We'll see how it proceeds the next week or two." The Reds' arbitration class is headlined by Mat Latos, whose case was analyzed by MLBTR's Matt Swartz last week. You can keep track of all of the Reds' arbitration cases with MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker.
  • With the Red Sox still seeking a left-handed hitting first baseman/left fielder, Tom Singer of MLB.com wonders if the Pirates will make another run at Jose Iglesias, as the starting point of a bigger deal involving Garrett Jones (Twitter links).
  • There is still no clear-cut answer as to whether Francisco Liriano will be with the Pirates in 2013, tweets Singer. The Pirates and Liriano agreed to a two-year, $12.75MM contract in December, but the deal was put on hold earlier this month when it was discovered the left-hander injured his right arm.
  • Lucas Duda told Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com his surgically repaired right wrist feels great and he has started hitting off a tee. Duda is projected to man left field for the Mets.
  • Chipper Jones was honored at the New York BBWAA dinner last night and confessed to the audience he was starting to get the itch to go back to Spring Training, Rubin reports. "I was on the Braves' web site, just kind of messing around on my computer," said Jones. "I was thinking to myself, 'You know what? I think I'm going to go down and get me a workout in, see how everything feels.' I was down there for about five minutes and I figured I'd go to Hawaii instead."

Quick Hits: Vazquez, Nationals, Padres, Stanton

On this date three years ago, the Mets officially signed R.A. Dickey to a minor league contract worth $600K if he made the team. Three seasons and one NL Cy Young Award later, the knuckleballer was traded to the Blue Jays for a package including two top prospects this offseason. Here's the latest from around the league as Saturday turns into Sunday…

  • "I am seriously considering pitching again, but have not made a final decision," said Javier Vazquez to MLB.com's Bill Ladson. "Certainly, If I do come back, [the Nationals are] definitely a place I would consider. I'm feeling really good and throwing the ball well."
  • The Padres have talked to the Marlins about Giancarlo Stanton, but nothing too detailed according to Bill Center of The San Diego Union-Tribune. Center notes Miami had interest in Padres prospect Jedd Gyorko earlier this winter.
  • In his latest Insider-only blog post, ESPN's Buster Olney ranked the Braves' bullpen as the best in baseball. Atlanta strengthened their relief corps by acquiring Jordan Walden a few weeks ago.
  • Within the same column, Olney says the Yankees probably won't make many more additions prior to Spring Training. New York claimed Russ Canzler off waivers yesterday.
  • The Pirates and Francisco Liriano have not yet finalized their two-year agreement, but there are no hang-ups or deal-breakers according to Rob Biertempfel of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (on Sulia). The holidays delayed things.

Quick Hits: Upton, Liriano, Orioles, Headley

Rob Manfred, MLB’s executive VP of labor relations, told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that he’s not ready to say baseball’s collective bargaining agreement needs changes. While the CBA appears to have limited the market for certain players who declined qualifying offers, Manfred says it’s still early. “I’m not inclined to get into a discussion about changing an agreement when it hasn’t even operated for a full year.” As Rosenthal points out, draft pick compensation places an artificial burden on free agents. Here are some more links from around MLB…

  • The Rangers aren’t a perfect fit for Justin Upton, because their lineup already includes many right-handed hitters, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney notes (Twitter links). The Braves could be a better fit, and could deal from a surplus of pitching. Olney reported yesterday that the Diamondbacks are open to dealing the right fielder.
  • The Pirates haven’t announced their two-year, $12.75MM agreement with Francisco Liriano, but MLB.com’s Tom Singer still expects the deal to go through (Twitter link). The Pirates have been trying to get the left-hander to Pittsburgh for a physical.
  • The Orioles have not watched free agent right-hander Javier Vazquez work out and they have no current plans to attend any of his scheduled sessions, Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com reports (on Twitter). That said, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun suggested today that the Orioles could have some interest (Twitter link).
  • Within an in-depth piece about third baseman Chase Headley, Padres GM Josh Byrnes revealed to MLB.com's Corey Brock that he pushed for the Red Sox to draft Headley back in 2005 when he was in the Boston front office. Headley, 28, is arbitration eligible for the third time this offseason.

Mets Notes: Sizemore, Liriano, Pavano

Scott Hairston would like to return to the Mets in 2013 but the club also has their eye on another free agent outfielder.  Here’s more on that and other news out of Queens..

  • Kevin Burkhardt of SNY (via Twitter) hears that the Mets are very interested in Grady Sizemore.  Sizemore missed the entire 2012 season with the Indians and is coming off of microfracture surgery on his right knee.
  • The Mets have reached out to the reps of free agent left-hander Francisco Liriano, right-hander Carl Pavano, and many others to replace R.A. Dickey, according to Ken Davidoff of the New York Post (on Twitter).  Talks between Liriano and the Twins have reportedly regressed and earlier today we learned that Minnesota is showing intense interest in Rich Harden.

Quick Hits: Liriano, Twins, Dickey, Phillies, Dempster

Earlier today, the Phillies finalized their trade for Michael Young while the Dodgers agreed to sign Zack Greinke. Here's the latest from around the league as Saturday turns into Sunday…

  • Talks between the Twins and Francisco Liriano have gone "backwards" according to LaVelle E. Neal III of The Star Tribune (on Twitter). The two sides had been discussing a reunion earlier this offseason.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports looked at two trade scenarios for the Mets involving R.A. Dickey. One featured the Rangers while the other featured the Blue Jays.
  • Agent Craig Landis told Peter Gammons of MLB.com (via Twitter) that he figures client Ryan Dempster will get a three-year deal once Greinke signs. Landis added that the pitcher would prefer to pitch in the National League with a team that has spring training in Arizona.
  • Michael Young's relationship with the Rangers' front office wasn't in great shape, tweets Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com. Young got $1.2MM in benefits from Texas in exchange for waiving his no-trade clause.
  • The first few weeks of the offseason have been really important for the Twins as they are 100% committed to rebuilding their pitching, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com.
  • Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reviewed Skip Schumaker's tenure in St. Louis. Strauss writes that the second baseman/outfielder's tenure with the Cardinals is likely through as GM John Mozeliak recently admitted that he is a trade candidate. The Dodgers and Twins are among the teams that are interested in Schumaker.

Mike Axisa contributed to this post.