Francisco Liriano Tipping Point Could Come Down to Three or Four Years

Buster Olney has an update on Francisco Liriano today, saying that he’s set up well to be a Plan B after Jon Lester goes off the market.

The first bit of info isn’t a surprise, since almost everyone has been writing about how Lester is holding up the market. When Lester goes, teams will turn to guys like James Shields, Liriano, Brandon McCarthy, and Ervin Santana. Max Scherzer is also available, and is the next best starter after Lester, although there is a belief that Scherzer won’t sign right away.

The notable thing here is that the tipping point could be between three and four years. The FanGraphs crowdsource contract had Liriano at three years and $36 M. Earlier in the off-season, I compared Liriano to recent free agents like Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Ricky Nolasco, who all received four year deals at $48-50 M.

Liriano is perceived as injury prone and inconsistent, so it would make sense that some teams won’t want to commit four years to him. The Pirates are rumored to be pushing hard for him, but there is no word on where they fall on the three or four year debate. It’s not necessary that they get Liriano, but if they don’t get him, they need to get one of the other top starters available after Lester is gone.

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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I’m curious to see if the market for Shieds drops after the disappointing postseason he had. I will be watching.


Not likely. If the Red Sox lose out on Lester, then I would bet that Shields will be playing in Boston next year for similar type money. And then there are the Giants who are looking to restock a depleted pitching staff and may not want to pay what Scherzer is looking for.


Liriano is a NO at 4 years. I rather have the Pirates work around a trade of Josh Bell for a pitcher with at least 3 years of control like Dallas Keuchel or Tyson Ross.

IC Bob

Nobody is trading a pitcher like Kuschel or Ross for a ML 1b who hit something like 6 HRs in his last 500 ABs. I would love to have Lirano for 4 yrs but our FO has not signed any pitcher beyond two years yet so chances of them going 4 whether I or anyone agrees or disagrees is slim to none.


Jon Niese is another possibility.


Niese is a ticking time bomb. I’d lay even money he misses half of 2015 with a shoulder injury.


It would take a pretty sizable offering to get Niese from the Mets. The White Sox are looking to deal Alexei Ramirez and may trade him to the Mets for Niese and prospects.


The Pirates should NOT go to four years with Liriano. He has not pitched more than 163 innings in any of the last four seasons. He had Tommy John surgery early in his career. He was a below average pitcher in the two seasons before he came to the Pirates. And he will be 34 years old in the last season of a 4 year deal. I would be reluctant to guarantee a third year.

Lukas Sutton

If cheap enough, yes. But there is no reason for Liriano to take on a 4th year for anything but near market price at this moment.


For the right price, yes the Pirates should go to 4 years.


What… Like maybe sign him for 3 years and he’ll pitch the 4th year for free or something?


See the Michael Cuddyer contract as an example.


A back-loaded deal? No thanks. I guess the right front-loaded deal could work; but I don’t see Liriano agreeing to it when he can get a more conventional deal elsewhere.


Steve, no not a backloaded deal. A deal where a player takes less money per year for more years. Are you convinced that Liriano can get a four year deal at anticipated market value ($12 – $13 million / per year)? If so, then you have a better mind reading ability than me.

John Lease

Whew, a plausible reason for the Pirates to whiff. Good thing AJ Burnett is here to suck up some money.

Lukas Sutton

You seem to be a fan of the wrong team, since you want the splashy and often market value deals for big names over 4+ years. They havent happened, they wont happen, they shouldnt happen often.


Or, ya know… a reasonable justification to not run a stupid risk by giving the guy 4 years. Six of one, half-dozen of the other.


The Pirates won’t offer anything more than a 2 year there goes that hope..


what is this assumption based on?


teh interwebs.


If the Pirates can get that fourth year at a reasonable price (4 Years – $40 to $44 million), I say do it. Cuddyer turned down 1 year @ $15.3 million for two @ $21 million and so it is not totally unreasonable to think Liriano will accept slightly less money per year for more years.

Lukas Sutton

The Pirates wont want that 4th year though. If they can sign him for 3 years, even possibly at a slightly higher price, there is no reason they would like the 4th year. They have pitching they are expecting to be ready in short order and with the inconsistent nature of the health of Liriano 3 years is great, 4 years isnt wise.


They have so much pitching available that they signed a 37 year old Burnett to a 1 year contract?

IMHO, the Pirates should and will take on the fourth year. Left-handed starting pitching even of so-so quality always finds a home.

“They have pitching they are expecting to be ready in short order…”

Correction…. They have right handed starting pitching expected to be ready in short order – Kingham and Taillon are both righties.

Joe Nastasi

Yes not having a lefty in the rotation will kill them. Look how much it’s hurt St. Louis the last couple years. I would like to see him come back also, just not because he’s a lefty but because of his swing & miss stuff.



Well there is that. If the Pirates had someone like Wainright on their staff, then Liriano becomes expendable.

Lukas Sutton

Well since the entire point of me post was “the have pitching they are expecting to be ready IN SHORT ORDER”. Next year they are fully expecting to have Cole-Taillon-Morton-Kingham all ready to go. They have guys like Locke and Cumpton very able to fill the last spot, along with FA’s brought in. So yeah, they did need a 1 year stop gap like AJ.

Your argument now centers around how a LHP is so valuable you take on an extra year of a injury prone SP at market value, or maybe just slightly below that, because LHP is a must. The team will almost for sure go for a better quality value over forcing themselves to focus on LHP. I love Liriano and am glad PIT is focusing on him, but 4 years enters the danger territory on a currently 31 year old. Its a matter of how the team wants to spend resources in 4 years when guys like Cole and Cutch are asking for extensions.



The market value on three years for Liriano seems to be $12-$13 million per year. If the Pirates can get him for four years @ $40-$44 million, they are basically paying about $4-$5 million for that fourth year. If I am the Pirates, I would take that deal all day and twice on Sunday.

Would Liriano take that deal – I don’t know, I am not a mind reader.

Lukas Sutton

But if you are Liriano, you dont sign for a 4th year if it only pays 4 million. Because you arent void of a brain. You are quick to point out facts but suddenly arent sure if Liriano would play for 4 million. Being totally reasonable you can admit he isnt signing an additional year for anything but 10+, unless the front end of that contract is loaded giving him 18 million in year 1.


If the Pirates can get him for four years @ $40-$44 million, they are basically paying about $4-$5 million for that fourth year.

Oh, I see what you mean (re: the discussion above).

But I think there’s another way to look at it: they’ll be getting that 4th year for whatever the contract says they pay for it. If it’s $12mil or more, so be it. But I think you have to look at it that way if you’re considering the risk that Liriano doesn’t perform up to the contract for its whole length– and he will be older by the end of it, although that may or may not lead to decline. If it’s the 3rd or 4th year of his contract and he’s not pitching at an elite level and/or if he’s not needed in the rotation anymore, then he’s a lot harder to trade if his contract isn’t front-loaded.

Of course, the flip side of this is that he doesn’t play up to the level he’s being paid for in the early years of the contract. But at least the risk of age-related decline is somewhat less during those years.


And how it is better that they signed Volquez when it clearly wont be.


If it means getting the seasons they provided in 2014 I would probably rather have Volquez. Liriano’s numbers are all the result of a great run in last two months. Both stunk in last start of the season. No way I tie up a rotation spot for Liriano for four years. No way. Would love to have him 3/36 but anything more is a Wandy Rodriquez disaster waiting to happen.

IC Bob

If it means four years they will not sign him. Not how we do business. I see us getting Volquez for two or three years at just under 10 million and selling the fans that this is what they intended all along.


I’ll be surprised if they are so disingenuous as to suggest that Liriano wasn’t their first objective. But Volquez for two years after signing Burnett for one year gives natural openings for two of the three ( Taillon, Kingham, Glasnow) to step into the rotation, with the third taking Morton’s spot when it opens. Three seasons from now the rotation would be Cole, Taillon, Glasnow, Worley, Kingham, which would be both solid and affordable.

Scott Kliesen

If they don’t get him, they’ll have to choose between paying more for same quality, or getting worse. No win in not signing him IMO.

Brandon Smith

I agree I think he’s the best value out there, although if we don’t sign him we do get that extra first rounder. McCarthy + the pick doesn’t sound terrible either IMO.

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