Will the real Francisco Liriano please stand up?
I would really like to know which version of the starting pitcher the Minnesota Twins are shopping around. Is it the version that came back to the rotation after his exile to the bullpen? Or is it the one that was shelled for 7 earned runs and 3 home runs in 2 2/3 innings on Monday night?
Unfortunately, no one knows, but perhaps that is the real Liriano: good for a start or two and then right back to square one.
It is this inconsistency in Liriano's post-Tommy John career that has led to the possibility of the Minnesota Twins trading the beleaguered starting pitcher before this season's trade deadline.
Francisco Liriano had an abysmal start to his 2012 season which saw him booted over to the bullpen where he seemed to get things together.
In his 11 starts since returning to the rotation, Liriano is 3-5 and has tallied 8 or more strikeouts 4 times—most notably in his July 13 start against the Oakland Athletics in which Liriano returned to vintage form by tossing 8 innings and amassing 15 strikeouts.
Right around the time he was exiled to the bullpen, trade rumors about Liriano picked up. The original hope was that if Liriano could do well enough in the bullpen, perhaps it would increase his trade value.
Liriano did a good enough job to make it back to his starting slot and even make a few statements about his talent, but there are differing opinions on what those statements were.
There is no doubt in my mind that his 15-strikeout performance was great. It was nice to see the old Liriano once again. He followed it up with a 10-strikeout effort in 6 innings.
Are we getting some consistency?
His last start on Monday night brought reality crashing down once again. His mechanics went awry when his arm wasn't catching up to the rest of his body, which resulted in a hanging slider. These hanging sliders resulted in home runs for Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko and Alex Rios. Ouch.
Now more than ever is the time for the Twins to trade Francisco Liriano, and no, it isn't because of his poor performance on Monday. I am not that shallow when it comes to when the Twins should trade players. I base this on his inability to maintain a high level of pitching throughout a season—or even start to start—expected from the man once said to be the staff ace.
Ever since his Tommy John surgery in 2006, Liriano has never quite been the same. After missing the entire 2007 season, the once-proclaimed "Franchise" Liriano and the "next Johan Santana" has been inconsistent at best and putrid at his worst.
His comeback season in 2008 yielded decent results that saw Liriano post a 6-4 record in 14 games with a 3.91 ERA.
2009 was a season to forget when Liriano went 5-13 with a 5.80 ERA.
2010 saw a bid for a comeback from Liriano, but 2011 hit the starter like a ton of bricks with a 9-10 record and a 5.09 ERA after going 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA in 2010 and a career-high 201 strikeouts.
In his 2012 campaign, Liriano is 3-10 with a 5.31 ERA in 17 starts.
I wish I could say I was surprised, but I'm not. Ever since coming back from the surgery, Liriano has just two winning seasons to his name. In three of the five seasons, he allowed double-digit home runs (including this year), and in those same seasons had an ERA north of 5.00.
Never once has Liriano pitched more than 200 innings in a season. This doesn't sound like a potential ace that we need to keep to me.
This is not to say that Liriano doesn't have his up sides. He does seem willing to work to fix things that come up with his pitching, and when he is on, he is really on.
However, when he is off, he is way off. His up sides could get the Twins some new pitching prospects if they trade him as they should.
The Texas Rangers just lost Colby Lewis to a season-ending surgery, and Liriano is on their short list. The Twins should be working to get a deal going.
Are they? No word as yet, other than the Rangers are trying to land Cole Hamels first. The Twins are "inclined to listen to trade offers" for Liriano, but I think they need to be aggressive and not wait for the market to come to them, as the market may not come at all given the risk Liriano is.
Regardless of the sentimental view some people seem to hold regarding long-tenured Twins players, it is time for Liriano to pack his bags. It is entirely possible that Twins fans have seen the last of Liriano in a Minnesota uniform. He is no longer the franchise pitcher everyone thought he was going to be, but instead he is a pitcher that has an evil twin and a good twin: Which one will we see on the mound in his next start? He is paid $5.5 million a year; wouldn't that rate a little more consistency?
The Twins need to trade Liriano now. They need to trade him before the deadline to get some power arms into the pitching corps and also before Liriano has another start like he did on Monday and damages his stock even more.
Now is the time, Twins. Trade Liriano and move on.
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