Originally posted on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 12/21/12
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

Twitter, Facebook report engagement decline during Super Bowl

Steve Spurrier becomes special assistant to South Carolina AD

Brent Musberger wants you to bet on Joe Lunardi’s bracketology

Unranked Duke uses big first half to beat No.13 Louisville

MLB reportedly close to rule preventing collisions at second base

USOC says athletes concern about Zika shouldn't attend Games

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Von Miller shares support for embattled Johnny Manziel

The Panthers had to use a silent snap count at the Super Bowl

Report: Lakers would fire Byron Scott to hire Luke Walton

Was Alain Vigneault right about NHL's lack of punishment towards Wayne Simmonds?

Seahawks’ Frank Clark rips Cam Newton ‘that boy a b—‘

Report: Tom Thibodeau has 'always wanted' Knicks job

Daniel Bryan says goodbye to WWE during teary retirement speech

Paul George delivers great line about driving by Kobe Bryant

WATCH: Oklahoma beats Texas on Buddy Hield's 3-pointer

Andre Drummond hits 70-foot buzzer beater to end 3rd quarter

Duke's Allen appears to intentionally trip Louisville's Spaulding

Candidates for New York Knicks head coaching job

Attorney alleges Johnny Manziel ruptured ex-girlfriend's eardrum

Jeanie Buss may clean house in Lakers’ front office

Lisa Ann wants to reward Emmanuel Sanders for Super Bowl win

WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan to announce retirement

Nine best and worst players from 2015 NFL playoffs

Rodman wants Phil Jackson to know he’s ready to coach Knicks

Wade Phillips trolls Cam Newton with dabbing tweet

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

Was Alain Vigneault right about NHL's lack of punishment towards Wayne Simmonds?

Report: Knicks fire coach Derek Fisher

The best and worst commercials from Super Bowl 50

Best and worst from Super Bowl 50

Six best plays from Super Bowl 50

Eli doesn't look thrilled as Peyton wins Super Bowl

Did Beyonce almost fall down during Super Bowl halftime show?

Curry to serve as drummer for Panthers

Report: Marshawn Lynch plans to retire

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker