With Liriano’s improbable no-hitter on Tuesday night against the Chicago White Sox, the Twins ace reinvented himself in the eyes of trade deadline buyers, and moved his name to the top of the list of pitchers who may be traded come July 31, a list that also doubles as Brian Cashman’s personal shopping list.
I say “improbable no-hitter” not because Liriano lacks no-hit stuff (he has never wanted in this department) but because he was 1-4 this season with an ERA over 9.00. One no-hitter can’t erase a calamitous record like this, but it can highlight a pitcher’s raw ability, and cause teams badly in need of starting pitching to strongly consider making a run at him.
But let’s not get carried away by one start. Liriano has been average since his 2007 Tommy John surgery, and has been nothing short of horrible in 2011. While he may not be as bad as his record this year has indicated, the chances of him returning to 2006 form seem to be slim and none.
Still, the Twins will be courted for Liriano. He may not be great, but his no-hitter once again proved that he has greatness in him. For contending teams, a starting pitcher with even a whiff of greatness around him is worth bidding on. Just ask AJ Burnett.
While the Yankees have long been the rumored favorite for a midseason acquisition of Liriano’s services (due to their offseason Cliff Lee-related failures), this historic performance likely means that the Yanks will have company. And lots of it.
The White Sox themselves could use Liriano’s services, having gotten little out of John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Edwin Jackson and even Mark Buehrle in 2011. Philip Humber has been a surprising bright spot, but anytime a list of your team’s positives includes “Philip Humber is not as bad as we thought”, you could use a starter—although it is unlikely that the Twins would move Liriano within their division.
The Rangers always seem to be a starter away from a World Series, and although they have to be pleased with the efforts of Colby Lewis, CJ Wilson and the rest, Liriano is an established presence that could help solidify the rotation heading into the hot Texas days of summer.
The Cincinnati Reds are a legit contender whose starting staff is filled with potential, and could use the addition of Liriano to take things to the next level.
The list goes on and on. I already mentioned the Yankees, perennial candidates to acquire a big-name starter. The LA Angels have found themselves keeping pace with the Rangers in the AL Central and could bid on Liriano simply to keep him out of the hands of their rivals—not to mention address their own pitching needs.
Clearly, Liriano will be a wanted man. Teams will certainly be enticed by his talent, and will ignore his post-surgery track record that is, quite frankly, mediocre. But will he be the most sought-after player on the market? Well that depends on who else is available.
If the Rangers decide to trade Michael Young, his market will surely dwarf Liriano’s. He doesn’t provide the precious starting pitching help that Liriano does, but he is a proven offensive force with defensive flexibility.
Young desires a team that can provide him with consistency. He has been a jack-of-all-trades for Texas, which has certainly elevated his trade value, but has made no secret of his desire for an everyday job at third base or shortstop. When the deadline comes, and contenders become more and more desperate for offensive help, Young could finally get the consistency he has been wanting.
If the Dodgers continue to find themselves compromised by the McCourt divorce debacle, deadline buyers could find themselves benefiting from a fire sale situation.
James Loney and Matt Kemp would garner their fair share of interest, but it is Andre Ethier who would be the biggest prize. It would take nothing short of a full-scale financial meltdown for the Dodgers to consider moving Ethier, unfortunately Dodger fans seem be witnessing the beginnings of such a meltdown, and could see their young core shipped out if LA continues to struggle financially as well as in the standings.
And we haven’t even talked about the man who will likely be the biggest, brightest star available: Prince Fielder.
Fielder is unlikely to re-sign with Milwaukee after this season, and with the Brew Crew falling out of contention in the NL Central, the desire for a middle-of-the-order franchise-type hitter like Fielder would be overwhelming. And certainly greater than the desire for a pitcher like Liriano, whose track record is nowhere near as impressive as Fielders.
So has Francisco Liriano’s no-hitter helped his trade value? Without question. Is he now the most wanted piece who may become available? No way.
The fact is that Liriano’s no-no is closer to Edwin Jackson than it is to Randy Johnson. Sure, he has tons of potential. But thus far in his career, he has been unable to harness this ability. He might be the best starting pitcher available at the deadline, but he is at the top of a brief list.
For contending teams looking to improve themselves to championship level, there will certainly be bigger, better options than Liriano at the deadline. Although a no hitter is nothing to sneeze at, neither is Prince Fielder’s offensive capability.
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