MLB Trade Speculation: 5 Contenders Who Could Take a Chance on Francisco Liriano

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMay 31, 2012

MLB Trade Speculation: 5 Contenders Who Could Take a Chance on Francisco Liriano

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    In his return to the rotation last night, Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano threw a gem going six innings and allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out nine.

    He picked up his first win of the season in the process and dropped his ERA from 8.47 to 7.20 as the five relief appearances between this and his previous start seem to have done some good.

    A free agent at season's end, Liriano will no doubt be made available at the deadline by a struggling Twins team, and if he can string together a few more quality starts he could be among the most coveted arms in baseball at the deadline.

    He still has ace-caliber stuff when he's on, and while he represents a significant risk there are a handful of contending teams who could take that risk. Here is a look at five teams who could go after the 28-year-old if he continues to turn things around.

Baltimore Orioles

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    The Orioles have undoubtedly been the surprise team of 2012, and while their pitching staff looked terrific early on, they have begun to come back down to earth of late.

    Jason Hammel (6-2, 3.06 ERA) has emerged as a legitimate ace and rookie import Wei-Yin Chen (4-1, 3.31 ERA) has been better than anyone could have hoped.

    Beyond those two, however, Brian Matusz (4-5, 4.82 ERA) and Jake Arrieta (2-6, 5.37 ERA) have both struggled, and Tommy Hunter (2-3, 5.59 ERA) was recently optioned to the minors. 

    The Orioles may not want to mortgage their future by trading any of their prospects to acquire Liriano, but if they are to make a serious run at the playoffs in 2012, they'll likely need to address their rotation at the deadline.

New York Mets

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    The Mets have been surprisingly good this season, and they could look for a rental-type player if they are still in contention to help with their stretch run.

    Johan Santana (2-2, 2.75 ERA) has bounced back better than anyone could have expected from injury, and R.A. Dickey (7-1, 3.06 ERA) is having a great season as well.

    Meanwhile, Jon Niese (3-2, 4.55 ERA) and Dillon Gee (4-3, 4.69 ERA) have both proven to be solid starters. The fifth starter spot, however, has been a revolving door so far this season.

    With Mike Pelfrey (0-0, 2.29 ERA) on the 60-day DL with elbow swelling, Miguel Batista (1-1, 3.95 ERA), Chris Schwinden (0-1, 12.46 ERA) and Jeremy Hefner (1-2, 5.60 ERA) have all made starts. Dealing for Liriano could help sort out that situation.

New York Yankees

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    The Yankees seemingly shored up their rotation woes this offseason when they traded for Mariners right-hander Michael Pineda and signed Hiroki Kuroda to pitch alongside CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova.

    Sabathia (6-2, 3.66 ERA) has been his usual reliable self and Kuroda (4-6, 3.96 ERA) has continued to be a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy. However, little beyond that has gone according to plan.

    Both Nova (6-2, 5.60 ERA) and Hughes (4-5, 5.64 ERA) have struggled and Pineda was sidelined for the season before he ever threw a pitch. Longtime Yankee Andy Pettitte (2-2, 3.49 ERA) has returned and picked up right where he left off, but this team will undoubtedly look to add a starter or possibly two at the deadline.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Entering the season, the Dodgers had two starters they knew would be solid in Clayton Kershaw (4-3, 2.42 ERA) and Chad Billingsley (2-3, 3.88 ERA), but beyond that there were questions.

    A trio of veterans in incumbent Ted Lilly (5-1, 3.14 ERA) and free agent additions Chris Capuano (7-1, 2.14 ERA) and Aaron Harang (3-3, 4.14 ERA) rounded out the rotation, and they have been terrific thus far.

    However, Lilly recently hit the disabled list with a potentially serious shoulder injury, and the team can't expect Capuano to continue pitching at his current level. Nathan Eovaldi has proven a solid fill-in, but the team could certainly benefit from adding to their rotational depth.

Detroit Tigers

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    When healthy and performing up to their potential, the Tigers rotation is among the best in all of baseball. However, they have not done that so far this season, and that could leave the Tigers searching for an arm at the deadline.

    Rick Porcello (3-4, 5.21 ERA) and Max Scherzer (4-3, 5.67 ERA) have both been wildly inconsistent, while Doug Fister (0-3, 3.15 ERA) has managed just six starts and is on his second DL stint of the year.

    That leaves stud Justin Verlander (5-3, 2.55 ERA) and unproven rookie Drew Smyly (2-1, 3.46 ERA) as the only two reliable starters in the Tiger rotation, and with expectations to contend despite a slow start, they could look to bolster their rotation.