As the Minnesota Twins sit at 32-45 with their share of issues and injuries, they could begin to draw interest for their “Ace” Francisco Liriano. Of all the starters that could come available as the trade market opens up, Liriano could be the most talented and make the most sense with the Reds.
Jeremy Guthrie of the Baltimore Orioles has been discussed often over the past few weeks by Reds fans, but he is a flyball pitcher who could struggle in Great American Small Park, and his track record shows only sporadic success.
Liriano has a no-hitter under his belt this season already, but he has been inconsistent. While some scouts point to his inconsistency
and say that teams should stay away from the southpaw, others point to his history and no hitter this season as evidence of his talent and potential.
Liriano would be under control of the trading team until the end of 2012. His contract makes him a fit with the Reds because he is making just 4.3 million for the 2011 season. He is arbitration eligible this offseason, but so far, he has not pitched well enough to guarantee himself a huge salary increase.
So far in 2011, Liriano has a 4-7 record with a 4.98 ERA, but 4 starts, Liriano has had 3 quality starts including an 8 inning two-hitter against the Rangers.
Whether the Reds would take a chance and acquire Liriano, I don’t know. However, he warrants a serious look from Walt Jocketty and crew. With several holes on the Twins roster, the Reds could unload 2-3 Major League ready prospects from AAA Louisville for Liriano. Jocketty is not into renting player
Liriano was 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA last season, and he gave up just 9 HR the entire season while striking out 201. The key to his success in 2010 was his slider. While his fastball had a -.7 runs above average margin, his slider was 19 runs above average which made it one of the most dominating pitches in the Major Leagues last season.
In 2011, he is throwing his slider only 28% of the time compared to 33% of the time in 2010. Because he is not using his slider as often, batters are swinging at just 27% of pitches outside the strike zone thrown by Liriano. Batters chased 34% of his pitches last season.
However, his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark, and because Bryan Price is one of the best pitching coaches around, I believe that Liriano could not only be a front end starter for the Reds, but he and Johnny Cueto could form a solid 1-2 punch in the post season or down the stretch.
Finally, if Liriano is able to raise the percentage of first pitch strikes that he throws form 50% to around his career average of 61%, then he may quickly turn around his 4.98 ERA. Rarely does a pitchers peripheral stats so clearly explain what makes him successful and inconsistent at the same time, but Liriano’s numbers seem to suggest to me that a quick turnaround is a distinct possibility.