With preparations for the 2011 baseball season in full force, Brian Cashman has yet to check off one thing on his list, a dominant starting rotation.
It seems as if the Yankees have been receiving bad news after the other this off-season. With Cliff Lee deciding to turn down the Yankees generous offer to sign with the Phillies and Andy Pettitte choosing to hang up his pinstriped uniform and retire to his Texas ranch, the Yankees are not in the best shape for this up coming season.
With their top-notch bullpen possibly becoming useless due to an ailing starting rotation, the Yankees are desperate. Thankfully for the bombers, the Minnesota Twins are considering trading one of their prominent starting pitchers, Francisco Liriano.
It seems that this starting lefty is just what the Yankees need to improve their rotation, but at what cost? Is Liriano really worth trading one of our players for?
Here are both sides of the argument, five reasons as to why the Yankees should pursue Liriano and five reasons why the Yankees should look away and go after another prospect.
The decision is theirs, lets just hope they make the right one.
Kevin Millwood has also been linked to the Yankees as a trade prospect for the upcoming season. Although he is requesting a $4-5 million salary that the Yankees are unwilling to pay him, he is as of now on the market and fair game.
Despite the fact the Millwood has 14 years of experience, he is 36 years old and his age is starting to show. With an overall 4.11 ERA, Millwood came back from a 5.07 ERA in 2008 to a 3.67 ERA in 2009 and ended the 2010 season with a 5.10 ERA. Signing Millwood does not seem like it would make any improvement to our rotation as signing Liriano would.
Honestly, if the Yankees decide to pursue Millwood we might as well keep the pitchers we already have.
Although Millwood has had an outstanding career, it would be in the Yankees best interest to go for a younger pitcher who is coming off the 2010 season in good shape.
The Yankees have recently attained star closer Rafael Soriano who ended his 2010 season on the Tampa Bay Rays with a 1.73 ERA and an overall 2.73 ERA. This dominating closer is expected to follow in the footsteps of legendary Mariano Rivera when his time to retire unfortunately comes.
With Soriano as the 8th inning setup man and Mariano Rivera as closer, this duo will end games quicker and be the kick the Yankees need to ensure saved games. However, in order to save games they have to be worth saving.
It will not be easy for these relievers to save games if the Yankees are down lets say 3-7. I am not saying trading for Liriano is going to ensure this does not happen, but it can reduce the chances of it. We have a legendary duo and they deserve to be needed and to be able to pitch.
Let's take a look of Francisco Liriano's career as a starter and see if he is worth pursuing.
In five seasons Liriano recorded a 3.97 ERA with Minnesota. He was considered a major prospect in his early career and in 2005 he led all minor league pitchers with 204 strikeouts.
Starting out in the bullpen in 2006, Liriano was quickly promoted to starter where he won his first three starts. His success continued that year leading the Major Leagues with a 2.19 ERA and winning Rookie of the Month in both June and July. Unfortunately, his success did not continue from there, he was placed on the disabled list due to an elbow injury. The pitcher received Tommy John surgery and was forced him to miss the 2007 season.
The 2008 season was no better, Liriano had a rough start coming back from his surgery and was sent back to the minors. Liriano was called back to the Twins and proved his potential as a pitcher, winning his first game and ending the season with a 3.91 ERA.
Playing his first entire year after coming off surgery seemed too much for Liriano, ending the season with a 5-13 record and recording a 5.80 ERA.
Liriano made a miraculous comeback in 2010 with a 3.62 ERA and even won the 2010 AL Comeback Player of the Year.
As noted in the previous slide, Liriano has had some ups and many downs in his career but when healthy (like right now) Liriano is great.
In 2006, Liriano posted the best ERA of his career (2.16) he was considered a top pitcher and his potential for greatness was inevitable. Unfortunately, due to injury and surgery, he was slowed down. He came back dramatically in 2010 proving that Liriano can continue to portray his talent and be the amazing pitcher he once was.
Here is a look at some other pitchers who made it back from Tommy John surgery:
-Chris Carpenter- Underwent Tommy John surgery in 2007, he came back with a 2.24 ERA in 2009 and posted a 3.22 ERA in 2010. If anything, Carpenter came back better.
-Tim Hudson- After receiving Tommy John Surgery in 2008, Hudson came back in 2009 with a 3.61 ERA and in 2010 with a 2.83 ERA, the second best in his career.
Those are just two out of the many pitchers who came back from Tommy John surgery, including Tommy John himself. Liriano is only 27 years old and all he can accomplish from this moment forth is endless.
When healthy Liriano is brilliant, he is healthy at the moment and he is worth being pursued.
As of right now the Yankees' starting rotation consists of the noteworthy CC Sabathia who posted a 3.18 ERA last season, the decent Phil Hughes who recorded a 4.19 ERA last season and the struggling A.J Burnett who ended the 2010 season as the worst of his entire career with a 5.26 ERA.
Unfortunately, the other four pitchers considered for the last two spots in the starting rotation are not any better than Hughes or Burnett.
Sergio Mitre (5.27), Ivan Nova (4.50), Bartolo Colon (4.10) and Freddy Garcia (4.13) are the top choices to fill in the last two spots of the starting rotation. If the rotation remains the way it is, then the Yankees better be prepared to kiss their 28th World Series title good-bye.
It is obvious, the Yankees' starting rotation as of now is in trouble. They are in dire need of help and Francisco Liriano may be the only prospect that can aid them, especially since the Yankees didn't go after Brandon Webb or Justin Duchscherer.
Liriano would be an ideal number three in the rotation and although he does not compare to Pettitte's postseason victory and Cliff Lee's outstanding performance on the mound, Liriano pitching as a lefty can fill the void of losing both of these left handed pitchers.
Money is no object for the Yankees.
After saving millions of dollars on Cliff Lee's denial and Andy Pettitte's retirement, the Yankees have enough money to convince any pitcher that he would look good in pinstripes. However, if the Yankees decided to wait a couple of years, they may be able to save even more cash for an even greater pitcher in the future.
With talks of a long term contract with Minnesota going absolutely no where and Liriano wanting a $39 million for a three-year deal, he will most likely be traded. The Yankees can easily purchase Liriano for the amount he requests but waiting a couple of years may save the Yankees millions, again.
Say we let another team have him and he does awful, the Yankees will now be aware that he is still suffering from his injury. However, if Liriano pitches brilliantly the Yankees will be confident in attaining Liriano in the future. Sure he may be up for more money but like I said before, money is no object for the Yankees.
Waiting a couple of years for Liriano can either make the Yankees confident in pursuing him for the future, or be glad they decided to turn the other way.
Liriano may just be a waste of time for the Yankees.
Although the Twins have no intention of keeping Liriano long term, they may decide to keep the ace, especially if the Yankees are not going to give up Jesus Montero.
After all, Minnesota and the Yankees have had a competitive postseason past and unless they are getting a good trade for Liriano, it makes sense for the Twins to have no intention of helping the Yankees out.
When it comes to a postseason pitcher, that is one void that may take the Yankees years to fill. Francisco Liriano is clearly no Andy Pettitte during both the regular season and postseason.
During the postseason, Andy Pettitte has recorded an overall ERA of 3.83 in 13 seasons. His has brought the Yankees to multiple play-off games and most importantly to five World Series Championships. Finding a postseason pitcher to meet the caliber of Andy Pettitte will be impossible this season and attaining pitcher Liriano may make the reality of losing the Yankees ace postseason pitcher even worse.
Inexperienced in the postseason, in two seasons Liriano posted a 5.87 ERA, a 4.50 ERA in 2009 and a 6.35 ERA in 2010 (his comeback season).
This is a reason the Yankees may look in another direction when pursuing a new pitcher. They do not have to look for another Andy Pettitte, they just need to look for someone who can ensure postseason success.
Liriano's injury history may be a main factor as to why the Yankees would be reluctant on signing the starter.
Liriano's surgery caused him to return to the field in 2008 rusty and unreliable. In reality, Liriano only had one great season, five years ago.
Although his pitching has improved tremendously and making a post surgery recovery is likely, (as explained previously giving examples of Carpenter and Hudson), attaining the starter may be too much of a risk for the Yankees and an unwanted one for fans.
It is understandable why the Yankees would make this reason a main factor when deciding whether to should pursue the starter. Just look at Tommy John surgeries that have failed in the past:
-Jaret Wright- missed three years after his surgery and came back with an unfortunate 15.71 ERA in 2002, 7.35 ERA in 2003 and ended his career in 2007 with a 6.97 ERA.
-Bill Pulsipher- Pulsipher started off his career with a 3.98 ERA and after receiving Tommy John surgery in 1996, his career went downhill from there, posting a 6.91 ERA in 1998, a 7.88 ERA in 2001 and ending his career with a 6.75 ERA.
Liriano will either overcome his surgery or be beaten by it. The Yankees can go either way on this one. They can have faith that he can further improve or assume he will never come back. It is a risk they may or may not take.
Unless the Yankees can make some sort of deal with the Twins to attain Liriano without giving up one of our men, we are most likely sending off one of our players to Minnesota.
The players who are likely to be up for trade are Jesus Montero, Andrew Brackman, Manuel Banuelos or Dellin Betances. Lets compare their stats and see if it is worth the trade.
-Jesus Montero- in his four seasons with the minors, Montero attains a batting average of .314, 449 hits and 58 home runs. In 2009, he was named the Yankees second best prospect and Baseball America’s third best prospect. Montero is expected to be a future catching replacement for Jorge Posada.
-Andrew Brackman- in four seasons the pitcher has an overall 4.77 ERA and posted his best ERA in the 2010 season with a 3.01. He too underwent Tommy John surgery and although his pitching can come into question at times, the Yankees have exercised their option for him in the 2011 season.
-Manuel Banuelos- as a left handed minor league pitcher for the Yankees, Banuelos posted an impressive 2.59 ERA for the 2011 season. He was announced by Baseball America in 2010 to be the Yankees’ sixth best prospect.
-Dellin Betances- Betances posted an overall 3.39 ERA in his five seasons as a minor league pitcher and was announced to be the Yankees’ third best prospect for 2007 and fifth for 2009.
Each of these players have their perks, do you think they are worth being traded for Liriano?
If it comes down to Montero, I would say no.
There you have it, both sides of the argument.
There are positives and negatives when choosing to either pursue Liriano or not.
In my opinion, I think they should pursue Liriano. As of right now our starting rotation is weak. In order to win games the entire team has to contribute and if the pitchers are the only players not doing their part, then the Yankees 2012 season will be a disaster.
What is there to loose if the Yankees attain Liriano? If he does bad sure, we wasted millions of dollars and our chances for a successful 2011 season and postseason will be difficult to attain. If he pitches well, then the Yankees can prepare themselves for another postseason, this time not by wild card.
As of right now it would be in their best interest to sign Liriano.