Originally written on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 11/10/14
Royals_vs_twins_adcf
The Pirates made surprising headlines this morning when they agreed to a deal with free agent pitcher Francisco Liriano. They will pay him $14M over two years. Liriano, a 29-year-old lefty who spent his whole career with Minnesota before a midseason trade to the White Sox in 2012, is a pretty high-risk signing with the potential to be dominant but also the potential to be a disaster. After establishing himself as a very solid young lefty early in his career, Liriano’s been very inconsistent. He had a fantastic 2010 season (3.62 ERA, 9.4 K/9–good enough to get a couple Cy Young votes) but fell off dramatically in 2011 and 2012. A big reason for that has been his control; he walked five batters per nine innings in each of those seasons, resulting in ERA’s north of 5.00. He’s also had some injury problems (TJ surgery in ’06 and a strained shoulder in ’11). The good news with Liriano is that he gets strikeouts–lots of ‘em. He’s averaged more than a K per inning over his career, and even in his rough 2012 season he struck out 9.6 batters per nine innings. He’s got great stuff–especially for a lefty–and is also still pretty young (for a free agent, at least). His ceiling is quite high, and it appears that the key to reaching it is reducing his walks. In 2010 and 2006–his two best seasons–he walked 2.7 and 2.4 batters per nine. I love the fact that the Pirates are rolling the dice on a high-upside guy like this, but I don’t like the cost. $14M would make for an incredibly terrible contract if Liriano continues to pitch as he did over the last two seasons. Adding him to the rotation makes it even more volatile; the Bucs are already entering the year counting on a pretty big unknown in James McDonald, and it’s far from a guarantee that A.J. Burnett will be as good as he was last year. That said, Liriano could become a great buy-low candidate much like Burnett was last season, and if he harnesses his potential he’ll be a top-of-the-rotation guy. FIP and xFIP indicate that he wasn’t as bad as his ERA in ’11 and ’12, but he’s consistently underperformed in that regard for his whole career. Liriano should, however, benefit from moving to the NL and PNC Park. The Pirates weren’t going to get a sure boost to the rotation through free agency (and not really through trade, either), so this is about as well as they could’ve done in terms of finding someone that could potentially be really good. Again, though, the cost is significant and it’s a huge risk that could easily flame out badly. Generally, I like to see the Pirates take risks like that because they can’t really succeed by playing it safe. For example, I’d much rather have Liriano than Jeff Karstens because of his high ceiling (though Karstens offers the much higher floor) if it weren’t for his significantly higher price tag. That said, I can talk myself into the price a little bit because I doubt the Pirates were going to add a whole lot more this offseason anyway. Liriano fills one of the rotation slots the Bucs previously would’ve turned to Kyle McPherson and Jeff Locke to fill, so now they’ll be counting on only one of the youngsters to start the year. Liriano over either of them–even with the risk–is a much needed upgrade. As we’ve seen multiple times over the last year or so, they needed to overpay to get that upgrade. It remains to be seen how much of an upgrade Liriano will be. I like the risk, but it’s a very expensive one. PHOTO: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Wizards apologize for odd Black History Month tribute

Report: McCoy may want more money from Bills

Andre Johnson laughed upon hearing he wouldn't start

Brad Stevens: LeBron 'looks like the MVP to me'

Le'Veon Bell tees off on Mel Kiper Jr. over Twitter

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Eagles ship LeSean McCoy to Bills for Kiko Alonso

Murray would reportedly give Cowboys hometown discount

Report: Giants ‘considering a run’ at Ndamukong Suh

Darnell Dockett reportedly visiting 49ers on Tuesday

David West on Brian Shaw being fired: ‘That’s bulls–t'

Hamels trade talk motivating Red Sox pitching staff

Columbus Zoo names newborn penguin after Ezekiel Elliott

Matt Barnes blasts NBA over James Harden suspension

Joe Rogan: Ronda Rousey could beat half the men

Bills tell C.J. Spiller he won't be re-signed

Ohio State self-reported funny NCAA violation

Lupul, Phaneuf, Cuthbert threaten lawsuit against TSN

Report: Adrian Peterson has trade list of five preferred teams

Murphy disagrees with Billy Bean’s homosexual 'lifestyle'

Trent Cole has ‘no respect’ for Eagles after release from team

Ronda Rousey lands free ticket to Pacquiao-Mayweather bout

Report: Celtics to pursue Love, Monroe and Gasol this summer

Trying to solve the Alex Guerrero problem

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Stevens: LeBron looks like the MVP

Spiller: EJ Manuel learned not to be 'buddy buddy' with everyone

Ten most underrated NFL free agents

Five potential landing spots for Andre Johnson

Texas-Baylor fight leads to 7 ejections

Mark Cuban will be Prez in 'Sharknado 3'

Report: Redskins interested in Suh

Report: Revis likely to hit free agency

Steve Spurrier joins Twitter

MJ makes Forbes billionaire list

Nick Young fires back at Robert Flores

Sad LeBron literally looks in mirror after loss to Rockets

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.