6:13pm: Among the clubs with at least some interest in Liriano are the Cubs, per Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network (via Twitter), who would view the lefty as a possible reliever.
2:32pm: Sherman tweets that the Jays and Royals had discussed both Liriano and Marco Estrada, but Liriano now looks to be their sole focus. Morosi tweets that other clubs have had interest in Liriano, though there’s no readily apparent indication that talks with other teams have produced any kind of traction.
2:14pm: The Jays and Royals are “making progress” on a deal involving Liriano, reports MLB.com’s Jon Morosi (via Twitter).
2:03pm: Francisco Liriano has struggled mightily this season, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that the lefty is still drawing some interest. Sherman adds that the Blue Jays “may be close to dealing him.” To this point, the Royals have been the one club that has been definitively connected to the 33-year-old Liriano.
Playing out the final season of a three-year, $39MM contract, Liriano has seen his strikeout, walk and ground-ball rates each trend in the wrong direction, and his ERA has correspondingly soared to an unpalatable 5.99. Liriano’s 8.2 K/9, 4.9 BB/9 and 43.1 percent grounder rate would all rank as his worst marks since a disastrous 2012 campaign split between the Twins and White Sox. The lefty reinvented himself upon signing with the Pirates in 2013 and had three strong seasons there before being dealt to Toronto last season at the halfway point of the free-agent deal he signed to return to the Bucs.
Liriano was outstanding for Toronto down the stretch in 2016, averaging 9.5 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9 and a 52.2 percent ground-ball rate en route to a 2.92 ERA. Obviously, he’s been wholly unable to replicate that production in 2017. He’s still owed the balance of his $13MM salary in 2017 — a sum of about $4.69MM.
Yesterday, when profiling the trade market for left-handed relievers, I speculated that it’s at least plausible that some clubs would view Liriano as a relief option. Nearly all of his struggles this season have come against right-handed hitters (.289/.394/.512), as he’s limited opposing lefties to a putrid .241/.267/.379 batting line. Liriano has a 16-to-1 K/BB ratio against lefties in 2017 and has struck out nearly 27 percent of the left-handed hitters he’s faced. His heater is still averaging 92.6 mph as a starter, and one has to imagine that said velocity would tick upward if Liriano were to move to a short-relief role.
Then again, some clubs may simply look at the past success Liriano has had as a starting pitcher and think that a change of scenery could get him back on track. Consistency has long been a problem for Liriano in the Majors, but he’s often flashed stretches of brilliance when his mechanics are at their best. Considering his struggles in 2017, it wouldn’t cost an acquiring club much of anything (in terms of prospect value) to get its hands on Liriano and hope that he can again deliver some value, be it in a rotation or relief capacity.