You’re the GM: The Francisco Liriano Situation

8 Mar

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On Saturday, the Twins signed Scott Baker to a four year, $15.25 million deal.

On Sunday, Francisco Liriano threw four perfect innings against the Baltimore Orioles regulars. He struck out five and reports indicate that he had all of his pitches working. He stayed healthy in 2008. He had the Tommy John surgery. Is there a chance that he could be one of the pitchers who ends up being even better after that surgery? What if he’s one that ends up being even better!? Scary!


So, you are the Twins GM. Channel your inner-Bill Smith, and answer this question for me. (Note – pretend that Bill Smith would actually spill something) It is the question of the day for Twins fans?


Would you offer the same long-term contract that Scott Baker signed a day earlier to Francisco Liriano?


They are essentially in the same place in terms of big league service time. Baker has been relatively healthy, at least with his shoulder and elbow. Liriano had the Tommy John surgery, but he also had arm problems when he was still with the Giants. Scott Baker’s dedication and work ethic are not questioned. We occasionally hear little pokes about Liriano not working terribly hard. Scott Baker is the team’s Opening Day starter and most fans would call him the team’s #1 pitcher. Most Twins fans acknowledge that when it comes to pure ‘stuff’ and dominance potential, Liriano is as good as anyone in baseball. Both show very good poise and command on the mound.


The Twins certainly would take on some risk, but maybe there could be incentives for additional option years which would vest with a certain number of innings pitched. For Liriano, he certainly could make more money by going year to year. But he had Tommy John surgery at a point in his career where he was not set for life yet. Signing a long-term deal would give him some financial security.


So what would you do?  Would you offer the same contract? Would you offer more, or less?  Please feel free to send me an e-mail, or leave your questions or discussion points in the Comments here.



20 Responses to “You’re the GM: The Francisco Liriano Situation”

  1. thrylos98 March 8, 2009 at 7:27 pm #

    There is another thing in play here:

    The age of the pitchers (and realistically this is more relevant about looking at contracts vs. potential performance.) Baker is locked until his age 31 season and there is a club option for his age 32 season. So all of his prime is pretty much taken care, and he is entering his prime right now. The same thing should happen with Slowey (even thought that would be a longer contract and the kind of pitcher Slowey is, it is projectible that he will have a longer prime) and potentially Liriano. They will both not enter their primes in their arbitration years (a scary thought)

    So, If I were Bill Smith, I would bite the bullet and actually offer longer contracts to both Slowey and Liriano, with potentially less $ per year at the long end. Something like a 6+1, to take them both through their age 32 seasons with the option year. Not sure that the Twins would ever do that, but at least for Slowey it is a total no-brainer to me.

  2. Seth March 8, 2009 at 7:49 pm #

    Slowey is two years from arbitration, so you would naturally have to give him at least a five year deal with an option just to match up, and that first year contract would be quite low. Again, I would not have a problem with giving Slowey a 7 year deal.

  3. Dwade March 8, 2009 at 7:58 pm #

    Its hard to answer this question today, given that he pitched so well. Even with that bias clearly in mind, I would offer him a long term deal with a midlevel base salary and incentives out the yin-yang.

    I love Baker, I really do, but he’s not in the same league with other aces in this league. Liriano has a chance to be in the same class as Oswalt, Peavy, Zambrano, and maybe even Santana and Lincecum.

  4. skepticalMan March 9, 2009 at 12:02 am #

    No I wouldn’t do it this year. Lirano already has 4 yrs left and has alot to prove after his surgery. I would wait atleast a year. Maybe the next year he wins the CY and the extension gets too expensive. But I still hold rights to him for 3 more years and I know what I am paying for.

  5. John March 9, 2009 at 12:55 am #

    You have to see what Liriano does this season. He’s not going to be “better” than in ’06- he was then among the most dominant pitchers in the history of baseball. But he can still be a #1… the larger issue is whether his delivery will allow him to have a long career as a starter.

    In general, it’s well established that really long contracts for pitchers are bad news. Even for a guy like Slowey, it’s best to wait until a 4 or 5 year deal would include a year or two of free agency, as in the case of Baker (in option form).

  6. trevor March 9, 2009 at 6:08 am #

    No way. I think he’s too big of an injury risk and if motivation is still a question giving him lifetime financial security is not a recipe for success.

    Given he could have a huge year and soak us in arbitration, I may go for a 2-3 year deal at a discount to account for injury risk and leave him with one year of arbitration still remaining after the deal. That way we have a year to decide to open up the piggybank, trade him or let him play out the final year before free agency. It may mean losing him for prospects, but we’ve had success with that before…

  7. Dennis March 9, 2009 at 6:49 am #

    Looking at what Boston gave Jon Lester today I’d offer him a Baker contract before he has the chance to get too expensive. Just to buy out his arbitration years, which if he’s healthy, would pay for the contract.

    It would be a good deal for both the Twins and Liriano. The Twins take the risk of injury. Reward, a bargain Ace or above average starter. Worst case a cheaper Mays.

    Tack on a club option like Baker’s and if he turns out to be a Cytana caliber pitcher which we can’t afford to pick up both money and risk wise, his contract would afford us to move him for a boat load of talent, unlike with the Santana contract.

  8. mike wants wins March 9, 2009 at 8:39 am #

    I was going to say yes, with more money up front as a signing bonus (to leave room for Mauer or a high priced FA if Mauer leaves), but then I typed up another answer that said I was worried about his injury history (Liriano’s, not Mauer’s), then I said yes again (it’s not a lot of money to tie up), but then I realized if I can’t answer the question, that the answer has to be “no” for now. I’d not do it.

    As it is, I think he and his agent would say “no” right now also, and bet on the come.

  9. TT March 9, 2009 at 9:12 am #

    Giving any pitcher a 7 year contract is probably not a good idea. But the real issue is how much money you need to commit, not the number of years. One reason Baker was signable for 5 years is that he isn’t getting paid that much overall.

    Moreover, there is the question of risk and flexibility. The more pitchers you have signed to long term deals, the more likely it is that one of them turn bad on you. And being saddled with a mediocre pitcher whose contract is too rich to deal is not a good idea for a team like the Twins with a lot of minor league pitching talent.

    Slowey hasn’t established himself as a top of the rotation starter and could easily not live up to his promise. The risk with Liriano is more that he needs to show he can stay healthy than that he has the talent. In both cases, waiting a year would be worth the extra cost of signing them.

    If you are spending money to lock people up it should be saved for some of the young position players, including Joe Mauer.

  10. Bernt March 9, 2009 at 10:41 am #

    I’d wait and see how he does this year. If it looks like he’s going to be the guy who’s pitched this spring and at the end of last year, then I think you try to do a contract similar to Shields’ contract with Tampa Bay, but for not as much money. What I mean by that is make the guaranteed part for only 3-4 years, and then add another 3 option years with a buyout clause. That way we lock him up at reasonable rates, but if he flames out or gets hurt in the long run, we can just buy him out. He’s easily our pitcher with the greatest potential to be the next Santana–do something that gives him a little security and gives us some control and certainty without breaking the bank.

  11. rosterman March 9, 2009 at 10:57 am #

    You sign the pitcher for a reasonable rate over 305 years and hope that he produces in such a capacity that he is well worth the investment, and/or is tradable down the line if “cheaper” prospects develop.

    It’s always “nice” to have a so-called stopper. Baker (and mentioned above, Slowey) aren’t great pitchers, but they could be steady and regular arms…similar to Radke all of theose years. And at some point, the salaries might just level out. I can’t see paying Baker THAT MUCH in his option year, really.

    Liriano you have for at least four more years. If he’s a stud, you won’t be able to afford him. If you can’t sign him long-term, you have to trade him after arbitration year one to get maximum value. If he blows out his arm, then he loses.

    It’s a juggling act. Who is coming up. Who do you make room for? How long will everyone be around?

    Right now, the Twins also have Blackburn and Perkins for a few seasons. Perkins will go to arbitration before getting the hint of a long-term deal. I’m not sure Blackburn will be a starter for the Twins for mroe than the next two years.

    But back to Liriano. Yes, he could be the next Santana. But at what cost? If he signs away his arbitration years, the net gain/loss for either is a few million. But I doubt he’ll option out his first free-agent year. If he takes care of himself, and I’m sure he will, he wants the big money.

    How good are the Twins prospects? Who bumps up for 2010. What does the 2011 rotation/bullpen look like. Can we look out towards 2012?

    2010 arbitration also sees Guerrier back again, Crain in the mix, Boof probably out, noi Ayala fer sure, and Neshek probably doing a minor/major split as he won’t be back until sometime after the season starts. So the Twins can pretty much guarantee that their current rotation with the abckups of Humber/Swarzak and Duensing will be around for the spring training of 2010. Do you promote a couple of those starters to the bullpen and let Guerrier walk, for example, rather than sign for $3 million or a long-term contract?

    Again, if Baker stays healthy (and Slowey, too), both are predictable pitchers who give solid outings. Both have value, So if you sign for average market-rate, there will always be takers if you need to re-tool.

    I don’t know, though, about throwing $30 million up-front towards Liriano. Would he lose his hunger the next few seasons and just pitch? Can you absord the salary if he gets hurt? I think I’d be happy with the 2-4 seasons of him that are under your control and hope you can still only pay around that amount when the 4-year term ends.

    Now Joe Mauer. How much is not too much!

  12. halfchest March 9, 2009 at 2:30 pm #

    ummm, SIGN MAUER!!!!!

    Actualy I agree with those that think we ought to wait one more year. If Liriano has a good year and stays injury free then give him something like a 3 year deal with 2 or 3 option years. It will have to be something that fits between giving Liriano security but also giving him the chance at a huge contract down the road likely with another team. So I guess something that maybe buys out his first year of free agency guaranteed and a large option (10-15 mil)at the end for one or maybe 2 years likely with large buyouts(2-3 mil) as well.

    As far as Slowey is concerned I’m all about locking that guy up long term, I don’t think he’s had any major injury problems go after him get him now and I think his deal would be even more reasonable than Bakers.

    However back to Mauer though, I kind of wonder why the Twins didn’t frontload the guaranteed portion of Bakers contract this year. It would have made a lot of sense as they have the extra payroll this year. It makes me think that the Twins possibly are keeping money for a large signing bonus for a certain someone? PLEASE!!!!

  13. TT March 9, 2009 at 3:02 pm #

    “I kind of wonder why the Twins didn’t frontload the guaranteed portion of Bakers contract this year. It would have made a lot of sense as they have the extra payroll this year.”

    Just a comment. I doubt that the Twins really budget that way. I am sure they have some way of budgeting payrolls over several years, not just the year-to-year figures that the media obsesses over.

  14. mike wants wins March 9, 2009 at 3:24 pm #

    TT: so you’re suggesting they’ll take the money they don’t spend this year, and increase their payroll beyond 55% in future years? I don’t.

    This isn’t a big number, but if they give the same number to 3-4 more players, and then have Morneau, and Nathan (maybe not, but maybe), how much will the payroll be up to at that point? How much can they afford to pay Mauer (if he’s healthy)?

    Had they used a signing bonus to front load Baker’s deal, all they’d be out is the interest (ha) or investment income (um, yeah) they might earn by paying those dollars later. Now, instead, they’ve committed millions in the outyears, numbers they’ll hopefully have to match on 3-5-6 more guys.

    let’s say they have 5 guys making $8MM or so. That’s $40. Then they have Morneau making around $13 or so (I have no idea). That leaves $47MM to sign Mauer and 18 other guys (assuming they up the payroll to $100MM). If Mauer gets $20MM, that leave 27MM for 17 guys. Those better be really, really good players with no experience, or the Twins are in trouble at that point. All this assumes 3 pitchers and two hitters from the current group work out and they sign them (and that Nathan is gone, and not replaced by an experienced, high priced, closer).

    that’s why you might front load some of these deals with signing bonuses (like they did last year).

  15. Derek March 9, 2009 at 6:56 pm #

    I would do it lock him up before he gets to expensive make him a twin for life

    ps sign mauer now born in minnesota should end in minnesota ohh yea

  16. Nils March 9, 2009 at 9:43 pm #

    I’m signing Liriano through his arbitration years, considering this wouldn’t be that expensive, in relation to the market. I really think he is something special, maybe even one of the best pitchers in baseball. With the Tommy John surgery out of the way, he will hopefully (knock on wood) be healthy for the next couple of years. However, I have no problem with the Twins going year to year with him either, because of the money locked up with Morneau, Cuddyer, Baker and potentially (cross my fingers) Mauer.

  17. sploorp March 10, 2009 at 12:04 am #

    I don’t think Slowy or Liriano are arbitration eligible any time soon. I would wait at least another year. I have no idea where I would find the info, but just how much could a player’s salary possible go up in their first season of eligibility?

  18. mike March 10, 2009 at 7:39 am #

    In today’s market 15 mil for 4 years is almost no risk.

    If he stays healthy and becomes a 5th starter/reliever 15 mil over 4 years is still pretty cheap
    If he stays healthy and dominates 15 mil is a bargain
    If he gets hurt and never pitches again, 3.75 million per year is not going to bankrupt the team.

    If the contract has incentives, why not do it?

  19. TT March 10, 2009 at 9:13 am #

    The Pohlad’s are smart business people. They aren’t likely to budget annually based on the team’s cash flow.

    There is plenty of evidence they don’t. The Twins payroll went up a few years ago when they had big contracts to Hunter, Santana, Nathan, Mays, etc. That higher payroll was probably not sustainable. The Twins annual payroll ranked higher in league than its revenues. But the payroll went back down again as the guys with big contracts were unloaded.

    I think the media/fan obsession with annual payroll has little to do with how baseball teams’ actually manage their payroll costs.

    “3.75 million per year is not going to bankrupt the team.”

    A million here and a million there and pretty soon you are talking about real money. If you paid your average player that much you would have an annual payroll of $95 million.

    Last year the Twins $56 million payroll was pretty close their average. That means the average player is getting paid around $2 million per year assuming some players getting major league salaries are on the DL. For every player who gets $3.5 million you are going to need one on the payroll who gets major league minimum. You may be competitive one year with that ratio when you have a bunch of young players like the Twins did last year. But you aren’t going to win many championships maintaining that ratio over a four year period.

    And if you lose that 3.5 million guy to injury you have to replace him – so that roster spot is now costing you $4 million with major league minimum salary production. That is a significant dent for a team with the payroll the size of the Twins. For comparison, the combined salaries of their veteran role players Guerrier (1.5), Ayala (1.3), Crain (1.7) and Redmond (1) totals $5.5 million.

  20. mike March 10, 2009 at 9:45 am #

    my point was the only way to be hurt by this deal is if he flames out due to injury and 3.75 per year is almost no risk compared to the potential benefits.

    For example
    If he wins 10 games with a 4.15 ERA he will get way more than 3.75 per year.
    If he wins 15 wins this year, how much do think he will get in arbitration?
    And if he dominates and wins a Cy Young…yow.

    From any business standpoint, it makes sense to sign him now.

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