Minnesota Twins: Grading the Francisco Liriano Trade

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Minnesota Twins: Grading the Francisco Liriano Trade
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
For Francisco Liriano, it's been an up-and-down career since 2006.

It finally happened. After eight years the Minnesota Twins and Francisco Liriano have parted ways. On Saturday the Twins traded Liriano to the Chicago White Sox for infielder Eduardo Escobar and left-handed pitcher Pedro Hernandez. 

The Twins gave up on Liriano ever returning to the form he displayed before injuring his ulnar collateral ligament in 2006. The injury required Liriano to undergo Tommy John surgery, causing him to miss the entire 2007 season. 

Before Tommy John surgery, Liriano was dueling with Johan Santana to be the Twins' ace. After a September call-up in 2005 he had a 12-5 record as a starter in 20 starts with a  2.62 ERA and averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings.  

That season, he was twice named Rookie of the Month, named to the AL All-Star team and was in the running for the Cy Young Award before his season derailed.

After Tommy John surgery Liriano was never able to recapture that same level of success. From 2008 through this season he was 37-47 as a starter. His ERA increased to 4.65, and his strikeouts per nine innings dropped to 8.6. 

There would be glimpses of his dominance, like in 2010 when he opened the season 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in four starts, earning the AL Pitcher of the Month. But his performance was not consistent. He finished the rest of 2010 with a 11-10 record. 

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
No, Hernandez is not waving to the Boston crowd as he makes his exit.

This year, after opening the season 0-5 with a 9.45 ERA in six starts through the first week of May, Liriano was demoted to the bullpen. 

It just so happens this was the same time Scott Diamond was promoted from Rochester to the starting lineup.

Since returning to the starting rotation on May 30th, Liriano's pitching improved. In 11 starts since Diamond joined the team, he is 3-5 with a 3.00 ERA.  But that still wasn't enough to convince manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson that the Twins had an ace on their hands. 

After plenty of rumors that as many as seven teams were interested in Liriano, including the Angels, Blue Jays, Braves, Mets, Orioles, Red Sox and Yankees, it was the White Sox to whom Liriano was dealt.

In Escobar, the Twins receive a utility infielder who made his major-league debut as a September call-up last season. So far this year he has played four different positions in 36 games. A switch-hitter, the 5'10", 165 pound Escobar is currently hitting .207 with four doubles and a triple.

Signed as an amateur free-agent in 2006, Escobar spent six seasons in the White Sox organization. In his minor league career he batted .270 with a .354 slugging percentage.

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His main problem is he has a hole in his bat. In 2,160 minor-league at-bats he has 444 strikeouts with only 139 walks—that's a 3.2 strikeout to walk ratio.

The other problem is that the Twins already have a weak, switch-hitting utility infielder with Alexi Casilla on the roster. The Twins really don't have room for another at this point.

Hernandez, comes to the Twins with a total of four innings of experience at the major-league level. He made his debut on July 18th against the Red Sox. It was not a very auspicious start as he gave up eight earned runs on 12 hits in those four innings.

In six minor-league seasons, he has only pitched seven games at Triple-A, but he is 3-1 in six starts with a 4.89 ERA.

Over his entire minor-league career he has shown some potential. The left-hander is 33-13 with a career 3.42 ERA, with 68 starts in 108 games. In 428.1 innings, he has 360 strikeouts and only 78 walks—7.6 strikeouts and 1.8 walks per nine innings pitched. 

There is definitely more of an upside to Hernandez than Escobar at this point, but it could be a year or two before he makes his way back to the majors.

On the surface, it looks like the Twins didn't get a whole lot in this trade, but sometimes it's more about what was given up. In this case it was one big headache for Gardenhire and Anderson.

The overall grade for this transaction, much like how the entire season has gone—D plus. 

At least the Twins will get a shot at Liriano when the White Sox open a series at Target Field on Monday. Liriano will make his first start as a White Sox on Tuesday.

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