Francisco Liriano has a decision to make. He can reject his qualifying offer, enter the open market and try to get a three or four-year deal with a lot more guaranteed money, but risk his draft pick compensation hurting his market. Or, he can accept his qualifying offer, receive $15.3 M for one year, hope that his 2015 season goes just as well as the 2013 and 2014 seasons, and try again next year for a big contract.
I’ve said that I think he would be wise to reject the offer and go for a multi-year deal. The risk against this is that he could be seen as inconsistent, and even more expensive than he should be due to the draft pick compensation. However, that didn’t stop Ubaldo Jimenez from receiving a four-year, $50 M deal last year, despite the fact that he has also been inconsistent, was coming off his first good year in five seasons, and also had the qualifying offer attached. Matt Garza and Ricky Nolasco didn’t have draft pick compensation to worry about, but Nolasco has been inconsistent, and Garza has been injury prone. Both receive four-year deals in the $48-50 M range.
I don’t know if Liriano would receive four years, due to his injury history. But I think he could receive three years. FanGraphs has him at three years and $36 M in their crowdsourcing project, which is about what I’d expect him to receive as an average annual value on a multi-year deal.
Here’s where the situation gets complicated. The market has some good pitchers, with Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, and James Shields all available. That doesn’t mean there won’t be money or a team for Liriano. But it might mean that Liriano has to wait until those guys have set the market before he can sign. That’s what Brandon McCarthy appears to be doing, according to Jon Heyman.
yanks engaged brandon mccarthy but he's popular in market as 2nd-tier option (below scherzer, lester, shields) & is waiting
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 8, 2014
There are benefits to waiting. If a team misses out on one of those three pitchers, then that could raise the price for the second tier guys, and Liriano would be a prime member of that group. But there are also a lot of second tier guys, with McCarthy being one of them. So there’s no guarantee that a big payday would be there for Liriano.
I think the payday should be there. Over the last two seasons, Liriano has ranked 22nd in xFIP out of 136 pitchers with 200+ innings. He ranked ahead of Jon Lester and James Shields, and slightly behind Brandon McCarthy and Max Scherzer. The difference is that the big three each pitched over 430 innings in those two years. Liriano pitched 323 innings, and McCarthy was at 335. Liriano is great when he’s healthy, but health hasn’t been guaranteed.
The decision for Liriano is a choice between a guaranteed amount and potentially leaving money on the table, or taking on the unknown in an attempt to get the most guaranteed money, with the risk that the market doesn’t work out in his favor. I think he’d be better off with the multi-year deal, although I could see either path working for him. If he takes the one-year deal, and has another good season in 2015, then he’s sure to get a big offer next year, when he would be coming off three good years in a row. In that scenario, he’d be getting a lot more guaranteed money taking that risk than he could make this year.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the pitching market plays out this off-season, especially with Liriano. The first step is today’s decision over the qualifying offer.
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