When the Detroit Tigers signed Francisco Liriano to a one-year, $4 million deal this offseason, they knew what they were doing. It gave them a reliable, veteran left-handed starter that could provide them some solid starts while mentoring the youngsters, particularly fellow lefties Matthew Boyd and Daniel Norris, in the rotation.
The extra bonus of that signing was the cheap, expiring deal that they agreed on. For a rebuilding club like the Tigers, a savvy, left-handed veteran pitcher can fetch some prospects near the trade deadline if that said player is pitching well. And for the first two months of the season, Liriano fit that bill.
Through his first ten starts of the 2018 season, he was 3-2 with a 3.93 earned-run average and only 41 hits allowed in 57.2 innings pitched. But a right hamstring strain landed him on the 10-day disabled list in late May. Unfortunately for the Tigers, since returning from the DL on June 23rd, he has been a completely different pitcher. And not in a good way.
In his four starts made since his activation from the DL, he has gone 0-3 with a 7.46 ERA in 18.1 IP while allowing 24 hits. His latest start, last night against the Tampa Bay Rays, was his worst by far. He only lasted 2 1/3 innings while giving up eight hits and seven earned runs while his season ERA rose from 4.03 to 4.74.
His season stats in their entirety aren’t the greatest, either. Overall, Liriano is 3-5 with 76 IP in 14 starts. He has a 1.40 WHIP and has struck out 60 batters. Those are not stats that are going to be too appealing to contending teams looking to bolster their rotation for a playoff push or World Series run.
But for all of his struggles this year, Liriano may still hold some appeal. He once made an All-Star game appearance, albeit in 2006 with the Minnesota Twins, and was a top-ten finisher in the Cy Young voting back in 2013 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In those two seasons, he went 12-3 and 16-8 with 2.16 and 3.02 ERA’s, respectively.
He also has some valuable postseason experience. Liriano has made the playoffs five times in his 14 seasons and has pitched in some meaningful games. He led the Pirates to a National League Wild Card victory against the Cincinnati Reds in 2013 when he went seven innings while only giving up one earned run on four hits while striking out five. He also won a World Series with the Houston Astros last year, although he only appeared in two games and faced one batter each time.
So nonetheless, Francisco Liriano will most likely still be on the trading block in these upcoming weeks. The Tigers may not get as much as they could have for him back in late May or early June, but he still may fetch a prospect or two depending on the market. And for the Tigers, that’s about all you can ask for. He also should make a couple more starts before the trade deadline to improve his stock.
Teams are always looking for pitching, especially left-handers, and Liriano brings invaluable experience and leadership to any team he goes to. He will definitely be more valuable late in the season to a young, contending team such as the Philadelphia Phillies than a young, rebuilding team like the Tigers.
He is a piece that should, and most likely will, be moved by the July 31st deadline.
All stats are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.