First Pitch: More of This From Liriano and Fixing the Competitive Balance Lottery

The Pirates need the 2013 version of Francisco Liriano in the second half. Last time out he struggled in the first, but recovered and threw five innings with no earned runs, striking out eight in the process. Tonight against the Dodgers the results were much like the 2013 Liriano, with one run on four hits and two walks in seven innings, along with four strikeouts.

Liriano got off to a horrible start this year, and missed about a month with an injury. He has quietly been pitching better over his last six starts. In his last five outings prior to tonight, he had a 2.78 ERA. His 3.80 xFIP suggests he won’t continue with those numbers if he keeps up what he was doing, and that was issuing a lot of walks, but limiting the hits and striking out a lot of guys. The version we’ve seen the last two starts can not only put up strong numbers, but would also have the advanced metrics to back up those numbers.

We’re a week away from the trade deadline, and the Pirates will be looking at starting pitching. A big reason for this is because Liriano hasn’t lived up to his role this year. If Liriano can continue pitching like he has since returning from the disabled list, then that would be one of the biggest boosts the Pirates pitching staff could receive in the final two months.


MLB held their Competitive Balance Lottery today, and there was nothing about it that said “Competitive Balance”. The Pirates, Rays, and Royals were all shut out from draft picks, while the Cardinals and Mariners both received picks. The draft lottery has been flawed since day one. Any system that recognizes the need for competitive balance, but doesn’t offer draft picks for all of the teams that need such balance, is pointless.

I offered up a suggestion after the first draft, and the suggestion would still work today. For some background, the teams that make up the lottery are the ten teams with the lowest revenue, and the ten teams in the smallest markets. Any team who received revenue sharing, but doesn’t qualify for those lists, is entered in the lottery for a Comp Round B pick. This year there were 13 teams for the first round, and two more added for the second round. Here is how the system could be fixed.

1. Take whatever teams that fall in to both low revenue and small market categories, and have them compete for a first round compensation pick. Make as many picks as there are teams. We know that there would have been seven of those teams this year, which means there would be one extra pick in Round A.

2. Take all of the teams who only fell in to one category and give them compensation picks in section B after the second round. After those six picks, give picks to any teams who received revenue sharing, but don’t qualify as small market or low revenue (in this case, the Mariners and Twins).

Under this simple system, the teams that need help the most (small market AND small revenue) are not only guaranteed picks, but get the best picks. Teams that only fall into one of those categories would get a pick, but a lower valued pick. And a team that receives revenue sharing, but isn’t a small market or low revenue team would get the least valuable picks.

This would add three picks to the draft — one after the first round, and two after the second round. It wouldn’t blow up the draft, and it would achieve the goal of working toward Competitive Balance, even if these draft picks are just a very, very small piece of assistance towards that balance.

Links and Notes

**This Chart Shows the Steady Decline in Tyler Glasnow’s Walks This Year

**Prospect Watch: Jason Creasy Goes Over 43 Innings Without Issuing a Walk

**Starling Marte Placed on Disabled List, Brent Morel Recalled

**Pirates Miss Out on a 2015 Draft Pick in the Competitive Balance Lottery

**Pirates Connected to Phillies Reliever Antonio Bastardo

**Pirates Scouting Diamondbacks Relievers

**Minor League Schedule: Nick Kingham Has Improved Command Since Arriving in Indianapolis

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Kind of ironic to see people talking about the Pirates need for starting pitching, and trading Liriano, both in the same breath. First off, the July 31 trading “deadline” is a myth. You can still trade players in August. Pirates picked up 3 players last August. Second, I don’t think the Pirates will QO Liriano. Too many question marks for a SP on the downside of his career. I say you don’t trade him unless one of 2 things happen: 1. The Pirates find themselves out of the pennant/WC race – barring a season-ending injury to Cutch, that won’t happen. or 2. A team offers them at least one can’t miss prospect. Then I make that deal. A couple of names have already been mentioned above. I do not think he gets traded in the next 7 days. As far as Cumpton goes, yes he is fine as a 6th (spot) starter right now. If you were to trade Liriano, you still have 5 starters once Cole gets back.


Smurph, The only way Liriano could be traded in August is if he cleared waivers. I highly doubt he would clear waivers. It’s a moot point anyway because the Bucs will be in the race and won’t be looking to trade Francisco. I also think there is a very good chance they resign Francisco without a QO.

Pirate in Montana


Could it be that some people see that Liriano might not be the Pirate’s current best choice? Maybe due to him not regaining last seasons’s form?

I am hoping Liriano will, but am not counting on it. My vote would go to the Pirates being proactive about it.


While I don’t expect him to be as dominating as last season, I do like what I’ve seen the last two games. He needs a little improvement in his control. His pitches still have that late movement which baffles hitters.

Pirate in Montana

Just one more comment. During Liriano’s most recent game, they showed some stats that were kind of scary in terms of “bite” to his pitches and/or speed to them. Lost a couple of miles per hour, but the most shocking one was (if I remember correctly) the swings and misses or how efficient his slider was/is.


The MLB never ceases to amaze me. They get it wrong almost every time. Hoping they don’t get another ancient commissioner in there.


Theo Epstein is p.o.’d about the Cardinals “gift”.


I saw that. Epstein I think shares my sentiment: “If teams that don’t need or deserve comp picks get them and teams that do don’t get them, get rid of it altogether.”


I think with Liriano pitching decently lately and with Cole coming back and Marte hopefully back soon you keep what they have intact. Maybe get another reliever or if a corner INF type if one can be had without giving up a lot and that’s it. No reason to deal Liriano. His upside makes the Pirates a dangerous team and if they lose him so be it. They got crazy value out of him.


Liriano is really a unique case as far as starting pitchers in MLB are concerned.. He is SO high BETA imo. Him at his very best might even be better than Cole at his best and if he gets the velocity and control of his slider he could be an ace down the stretch. But he’s been so inconsistent and really has the potential to throw some real stinkers. But it’s almost like we have to take a leap of faith with him because the price to acquire a true TOR pitcher would gut our farm system. If we were 7 games out I could see the talk of trading Liriano. Given where we are in standings, what I’m guessing is his perceived value in marketplace vs what he could potentially do for us in pennant race I think its crazy to trade him.


Yes, they definitely need to keep Liriano but dealing Volquez could be a good option to save young talent being dealt. I am pretty confident Worley, Cumpton, and Kingham can fill his spot.


Trade Liriano? Hopefully these posts proffering this were meant sarcastically. Makes no sense to do that. Pirates, to get to the playoffs, need strong starting pitching. Easiest path to that is for Liriano to pitch as he is capable.

ONLY scenarios that this would make sense:

1) Pirates waive flag, become sellers (zero chance of that).
2) Pirates somehow acquire top of the rotation starter in trade (Price, Shields, Hamels) (um, lets put the chances on that at, say, zero).

I know all the talk of Pirates UPGRADING their rotation is simply because we (and presumably CH and NH) don’t trust that Locke/Volquez can be counted on to hold up in August and September (and of course the question mark that is Cole at this point). What is interesting to me is that of THIS rotation, right now, in terms of my own metric “trust meter”, I put them in this order: Morton – Liriano – Cole – Locke – Volquez. If the Bucs acquire a depth starter option, it will be to replace Volquez or Locke… Liriano is several rungs above in terms of being replaced.


I didn’t post the suggestion “sarcastically” necessarily. But over the past few weeks I’ve seen plenty of posts here suggesting dumping various guys (including Martin) at “high value”. At that time many were also suggesting bolstering the bullpen since “Cumpton is a quality starter” and “Kingham will be up”, suggesting the Bucs could do without Liriano or Volquez.

So call it “just taking a pulse”, lol.


Exactly! That is absurd when we are trying to win the division. We are looking for pitching, not looking to trade our ace from last year. I have said it many times, I think Francisco was hurt the whole first half. He now looks healthy and I see signs of the pitcher he was last year.


Could people please stop talking about Brandon Cumpton as if he’s anymore more than a spot starter at this point in time? Please. If he develops a better secondary pitch he could be #4 or #5 pitcher, perhaps in a perfect scenario a #3 but right now he is Quad A at best. If we are going into a pennant race with Brandon Cumpton getting 8-10 starts we have BIG problems. He has a 4.4 ERC and teams his .325 off his primary pitch which is his fastball.


Couldn’t agree more! Finally someone said it!


I’ve certainly not been one of the “Cumpton needs a spot in the rotation this year” guys, but I think Quad A right now is a bit harsh. Using Andrew’s #s, Cumpton averages .689 OPS the first 3 times thru the lineup, vs. league avg of .729, which seems like #4 material right now. And that’s with just the 2 pitches to use. If he adds an effective change, a #3 would be expected, not the perfect scenario that john states.
That said, Locke and Volquez offer more experience and better stuff right now and Worley’s lack of options means he gets the next crack at things. But Cumpton could be very interesting next year, assuming he picks up a change. And how does a pitcher come all the way through the Bucs system without a change? I thought that was one of their requirements for advancement.


Cumpton does throw a change up, but not often and it isn’t very good. Quad A is a bit harsh, I think it is toss up who would be better rest of season Cumpton or Volquez, but I don’t think the Pirates share that sentiment.

I in no way think Cumpton is relegated to being a depth option, Jeff Locke came back with an improve change up and looks like a solid middle of the rotation pitcher.


I actually agree with the quad A comparison. I don’t think he is ever a consistent starter in the show. I could see him as a decent middle reliever at some point but that’s the best I see for him. If someone asked for him in a trade, I would send him quickly.


Completely agree. Cumpton is a fine depth option, but he throws a sinker that gets ground balls at 45.7% rate, less than league average (49.5%), and doesn’t have a swing and miss pitch. He is vulnerable to left handed hitters and is not effective after one turn through the order.

Turn: Cumpton / League Average (by OPS)
1st: .507 / .704
2nd: .759 / .728
3rd: .801 / .756


Exactly, and although I really give him credit for helping us through a stretch of injuries I was nervous even in his outings vs Cubs and Mets which looked good on paper but I feel he really is at the mercy of BABIP and puts a lot of balls in play. And Andrew pointed out my biggest contention with relying on Cumpton is his 2nd and 3rd times through the order.


MLB, the corporation doesn’t want to fix any problems, they are making too much money from the status quo. They are just fine with the Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers having all the money and the success. Why would they change anything when the way it’s always been has been so financially beneficial to them?


Very true MLfan. Stories like the Bucs and Tampa are great to stir some interest in an underdog, only to be vanquished by the big market teams in the playoffs.


I like your “show me the money” argument. Because when things seem unfair financially just follow the money and you will find the truth.


The Pirates have too much on their plate right now to worry about what they are going to do with players in the off-season and I doubt that they are considering trading any of their top players at this time, if someone inquires I would think they would listen out of common curtsey.


I would love to see a .gif of a Neal Huntington curtsey 🙂


Liriano is a lock for a QO.

Nuke Laloosh

So was Burnett.


Burnett was never a lock for the QO. Solid arguments could be made on either side of that debate, and even with hindsight, still can be.
Frankie will be a lock if he pitches well the rest of the way, and especially in the playoffs. Can’t you see a team swooning over a playoff hero SP? I don’t think there’s a chance he accepts the QO. He realizes his injury history as much as anybody does, so won’t want to risk a 1 year deal when the 4 year, $50 – $60 mil deals signed by multiple pitchers will almost be a guarantee. Worst case he “settles” for 3/$45 mil, which is still better than $15 mil for one year and hope that year is healthy/goes well.


I believe that they WILL offer Liriano a QO. The reasons are that they could easily be outbid and receive an extra pick OR they could easily trade him at any point in the offseason or up to the trading deadline next season thus relieving themselves of his contract OR they could have a top of the rotation starter if all goes well. More than likely they would get outbid or trade him… but it is MUCH better than just losing him to FA.

S Brooks

I think the greatest likelihood/risk is that Frankie – who has qualified for the ERA title once in his entire career – would accept the QO and there goes your money to re-sign Martin. Durability matters as much as performance when you’re paying SPs. Remember that Lohse, Santana and Jimenez were all very late signings, and they all had better track records than Frankie does.

And this assumes Frankie’s next 12 starts are as good as the last 2, and not as bad as the previous 15. If he finishes the season with an ERA in the high 3’s there’s no question the Pirates decline to make the QO.

Lee Young

I don’t agree that Frankie is worth 15 mil.

However, If the Pirates are seriously interested in signing Martin, I believe they will have to QO him.

Lee Young

Tim…your lottery plan makes too much sense…that is why it’ll never be adopted.

Monsoon Harvard

I’d trade Liriano in a heartbeat if Baltimore offers slugging first base prospect Christian Walker.

Scott Kliesen

There is no way Pirates are trading Liriano. He is showing signs of returning to the Pitcher he was last season. The Pirates need him at his best to reach post-season, and I’m sure the Pirates are banking on it.

Joe Sweetnich

I agree, no way the Pirates trade Liriano, unless they lose every game from now until the trade deadline.


nope, there are only 6 games between now and the deadline. even 0-6, which the Reds just suffered, won’t make a material difference.


So here’s a question… Liriano will have one more start before the trading deadline, vs. SF. If he does well and if an AL contender is interested (most likely the Yankees or Baltimore), do you follow small-market dogma and trade him because you’re not going to re-sign him? We have Cumpton, we may have Kingham later.

IMO, there is zero likelihood the Bucs QO Liriano. I can see them QOing Martin, but not Liriano. So no draft pick coming on that.


bucs: I think both Liriano and Martin are locks for QO’s if, in the case of Liriano, he is still on the roster at the end of the year. And, if a team like the Yankees came calling with a basket that included LH hitting 3B Eric Jagielo, I would be interested. The kid they gave SD in the Headley trade, DePaula, is a real blue chip. But, this type of trade is a GM’s worst nightmare if he trades a guy like Liriano and the team comes close but does not make the playoffs. We have 3 in Colorado and then 3 at the Giants – we will know a lot more after those next 6 games. If we are in it as well or better as we are now, they better come with a lot to get Liriano.

Tim: I thought your suggestion was probably too sensible for consideration by MLB, and if the early voting has started, you have my vote. Because that pick is tradeable, it is a crippling blow to a team like the Pirates who can make an offer to a rebuilding team which includes that CB Pick, such as was done to get Gaby Sanchez.


I don’t see Neal offering a QO. In 8 seasons, Liriano has exceeded 150 inning just 3x. And if they’re going to pay Martin, I think they’ll go low-budget on any potential staff acquisitions (exception if they decide to go after Masterson).

I’m asking the question out of curiosity as a good % of posters here seem to want to adhere to small-market dogma regardless of competitive situation.


bucs: if you look closely at his history, you will notice an every-other-year type of performance where he excels. His performance has been spotty this year after a big year last year, but his numbers in the last 6 games are excellent. If we keep him all year and give the QO, somebody will sign him long term for at least $60+ mil as a FA. In that case we will get a Supplemental pick that will be in the 30’s. If the package offered by another team is good enough, the Pirates may opt to trade him at the deadline. My best possible trade would be to the Yankees for LH hitting 3B Eric Jagielo and LHSP Ian Clarkin. Both were drafted by the Yankees last year, and although both are technically First Round picks, Jagielo was #28 and Clarkin was a Supplemental in the 30’s, so I see this as a fair trade. It is going to be a tough call either way.


Technically it’s not every other year. He’s had stretches where he had two bad years in a row, not just one. There are no guarantees 2015 will be a good year.

I can imagine the horror that would be Federal St. if indeed the FO offered QOs to both Liriano and Martin and they both accepted. The Pirates have never had any two players command a combined $20 mill. Now they’d be paying two guys $30 mill – double what they made in 2014?

Not a snowball’s chance in hell that happens.

I’m even starting to convince myself that it might be a good idea to deal.


I’m really not sure that it is small market dogma to shed starting pitching in the middle of division race.


Exactly. I don’t think it is ‘any market dogma’. Just silly fantasy baseball blog fodder.


I agree that both Liriano and Martin make a ton of sense and may, in fact, be locks for the QO after the season. Liriano hasn’t been as good as last year, but, as I posted the other day in the AJ topic, Liriano’s advanced metrics indicate that he is still a damn good pitcher. Liriano has a BETTER GB% this year than last year…the 3rd best GB% of his career in fact. His K/9 is higher than his career average at 9.48. His real problem this year is two fold: BB/9 and HR/FB. IF Liriano can continue to limit his BBs going forward and he sees a normal regression in his HR/FB ratio then you’re going to see a pitcher who improves a full half-run in ERA (which is indicated by his 3.71 xFIP). If Liriano continues to pitch how he’s pitching the last two games…I think he’ll end the year with a 3.6-3.7 ERA. From a lefty with the K9 he puts up? Yeah, he’d be deserving of a QO.

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