This Francisco Liriano thing looks to be playing out quite sloppily. After a series of good to excellent starts -- sometimes people have mistaken good starts for great ones because of Liriano's awful work earlier this season -- he melted down in Chicago on Monday night.
Less than three innings, three home runs, seven runs allowed, no command.
Some people are bemoaning that Liriano pretty much nuked his trade value with Monday's performance.
Not really. There wasn't much trade value before that, in part because of changes in the free-agent compensation rules that are frequently talked about and not always completely understood. And, in another part, because Liriano doesn't exactly bring a track record of quality to market.
The bigger issue for Twins fans is the game of chicken being played by the team.
Here's the deal: In order for the Twins to get draft-choice compensation for Liriano, they would have to offer him a one-year contract for about $12.5 million --the average of baseball's top 125 salaries. Liriano would have to decide whether to accept the deal or look elsewhere, most likely for a multiyear deal.
These are new rules that will be in effect for the first time after this season. Here's the best primer on the rules, from the website mlbtraderumors.com.
Do the Twins want to risk making an offer and having Liriano accept it? Fool me once...
Do Twins fans want to hear that other moves will be limited because the Twins spent $12.5 million to keep Liriano? You can fool some of the people...
There's more that works against the Twins. For one thing, a team trading for him will not be eligible for free-agent compensation. So Liriano would basically be a two-month rental. For another, teams looking at Liriano aren't just looking at his recent success when figuring their offers and counteroffers. You're not going to get a Top 25 minor-league prospect, the way Miami did when it got pitcher Jacob Turner from Detroit on Monday for starting pitcher Anibel Sanchez and second baseman Omar Infante.
Interest in Liriano is one thing; interest at more than a modest price is another. Teams know that starting pitching is the Twins' biggest need to again become competitive, so when they see Liriano being dangled, what conclusions do you think they're making?
So do the Twins shun modest offers for Liriano, and risk offering him $12.5 million after the World Series or losing him without getting anything in return?
Can they afford to trade him and not get much in return, like Seattle did when it sent Ichiro to the Yankees?
Can they afford not to deal him?
It's a messy situation the Twins have created for themselves, one without a good outcome.
What would you do?