Set to turn 36 next month, Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano hopes to keep pitching for a couple more seasons, Stephen Nesbitt of The Athletic reports (subscription required). There’s no word on whether the Pirates are interested in re-signing the pending free agent, though.
Liriano could be days from wrapping up his second stint with the Pirates, who inked him to a minor league contract last February. While the well-traveled Liriano was a starter (and a good one at that) during his previous run with the Pirates from 2013-16, he has settled into a full-time relief role this season.
Pittsburgh’s decision to buy low on a Liriano reunion and use him in its bullpen has worked out for both parties. He earned a roster spot out of camp and has since logged 69 innings (which paces all Pirates relievers) of 3.39 ERA ball with 8.09 K/9, 4.43 BB/9 and a 49.2 percent groundball rate. ERA indicators FIP (4.54), xFIP (4.93) and SIERA (4.76) suggest Lirirano has been fortunate to prevent runs at such a useful clip, but it’s worth pointing out he has done so by inducing harmless contact more than the vast majority of major league hurlers. Liriano’s infield fly percentage (15.2) sits 22nd among all of the game’s qualified relievers, while he ranks in the league’s 99th percentile in average exit velocity against (84.5 mph) and hard-hit percentage (28.7), according to Statcast.
Assuming Liriano remains a reliever going forward, it doesn’t seem he’ll be fazed by the three-batter minimum rule that MLB will implement in 2020. That could push southpaw relievers who struggle versus right-handed hitters out of the bigs, but Liriano has done a satisfactory job retiring them. Righties have posted a .309 weighted on-base average against Liriano, which isn’t a great deal higher than the .295 mark lefties have managed.
Despite his success this year, Liriano obviously isn’t going to come at a high cost as a free agent. Liriano has earned a $1.8MM salary this year, and if he does land a guaranteed contract during the offseason, the value doesn’t seem likely to stray far from that neighborhood.