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If the Twins want to sign Francisco Liriano to an extension, it will need to be in the parameters of what Liriano will make on the free agent market this winter. But its hard to know even roughly how much he’ll command. Partly that’s because of his mercurial performance. But that problem is compounded by a free agent class that is unprecedented in pitching depth.
It starts with two 28-year-olds, right-hander Zach Greinke and left-hander Cole Hamels that are both better than anyone in last year’s class. They both could reach nine figure deals with yearly salaries that approach $20M per year.
But the really remarkable variable about the free agent class is the next level. There is a glut of “potential” star pitchers and Liriano falls into that class.
Liriano, who currently has 5.40 ERA and 76K in 76.2 IP slots in somewhere among these pitchers. He’s probably been the least consisten, but he’s also one of the youngest. He has never posted the inning totals that these guys have. But he’s also the only left-hander in this group.
Finally, it’s also worth noting that I haven’t included a slew of other pitchers, some of whom might even be more enticing to teams looking for “inning eaters”: Kyle Lohse, Joe Saunders, Randy Wolf, Carl Pavano, Kevin Correia, Derek Lowe, Carlos Zambrano, Fausto Carmona and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
So how much could Liriano expect, provided he continues to be effective? The guys I bullet pointed above could all expect multiyear offers for $10M+ per year any other year. Injuries and late season performances could change that. So could the depth of the market.
Liriano would likely be on the low end of that group, but his age could be a factor in allowing a longer-term deal. Three years and $27M feels about right. But there are a ton of unknowns. If some teams really want a left-hander, he could go higher. If the market dries up after the first half dozen guys sign, he could go lower or for fewer years. Plus, there is his performance in July through September. If he wants to cash in now and avoid all that, one would think the price of an extension might be a little lower.
But there is another lesson here too.
The Twins, should they choose to spend some money, have a historically deep free agent class to rebuild their rotation. While the focus is likely to be Greinke or Hamels, there is a lot of value in that next tier – someone is going to fall out of that group and get a lower contract than we anticipate. And there are a lot of other average pitchers (such as Pavano) who might find themselves standing without a chair when the music stops.
If the Twins choose to try and extend Liriano, they place their bet early. It might make more sense to wait until the market sorts itself out and be aggressive later.
Admit it - there just isn't THAT much you HAVE to do today. Nobody is going to gripe to much if that report you're working on isn't done until Monday. So let's talk some Twins....
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