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Acquired LHP Francisco Liriano from the Minnesota Twins for SS-S Eduardo Escobar and LHP Pedro Hernandez. [7/28]
Those who doubt the existence of miracles need only watch Kenny Williams at work in the days leading up to each summer’s non-waiver trade deadline. Despite a farm system that hasn’t ranked higher than 24th since 2007, Williams is always on the prowl, looking for clever and creative ways to improve his major league club.
Having already upgraded third base (Kevin Youkilis) and the bullpen (Brett Myers), Williams continued his acquisition spree on Saturday, procuring Francisco Liriano from Minnesota in exchange for infielder Eduardo Escobar and relief pitcher Pedro Hernandez.
At first glance, it isn’t obvious where Liriano fits into the White Sox rotation, which appears set with Chris Sale, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, Philip Humber, and Jose Quintana. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that the plan, initially, is to “slide him in to give others an extra day of rest or two.” Chicago went with the six-man rotation for several weeks last summer before dealing Edwin Jackson at the deadline, so this should be familiar territory. Recent reports have indicated that the White Sox are “eager to move Floyd,” meaning that there’s a fair chance of a natural turn in the rotation opening up for Liriano sooner rather than later.
In Liriano, the White Sox acquire one of baseball’s most enigmatic and frustrating pitchers, a man who flashes ace-caliber stuff yet whose results in recent years have rarely aligned with the scouting reports. Liriano has been worth 5.8 WARP over the last five seasons, but nearly three-quarters of that value came in 2010 when he posted a career-best 4.3 WARP. In 234 1/3 innings over the last two seasons, Liriano has been worth four-tenths of a win above replacement, failing to stabilize a Twins rotation that has lacked consistency at the top since it lost Johan Santana after the 2007 season.
Inconsistency devolved into incompetence this spring when Liriano opened the season with four-consecutive starts of five earned runs allowed, followed by a pair of four-earned run efforts. An 0-5 record and a 9.45 ERA earned Liriano a ticket to the bullpen, where he was mostly effective in five outings, before returning to the rotation on May 30 against Oakland. Since then, Liriano has gone 5-6 with a 3.68 ERA, 10.8 K/9, and 2.72 K/BB in 66 innings, surrendering more than four earned runs just once—against the White Sox on July 23. —Bradley Ankrom
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Acquire SS-S Eduardo Escobar and LHP Pedro Hernandez from the Chicago White Sox for LHP Francisco Liriano. [7/28]
The White Sox gave up a pair of big league-ready talents for Liriano, but neither will play a huge role for the current club.
Escobar has been in the majors all year, but he's done little while getting limited playing time. On the positive side, he is an outstanding defender with the ability to provide value with the glove at second base, third base, and shortstop. He has excellent defensive instincts, good hands, and a strong arm. He has an idea at the plate and can occasionally show gap power, but he's not an especially instinctual hitter and even in the most perfect of projections is a second-division shortstop who bats ninth. More likely, he spends another decade in the game bouncing up and down as a useful utility player.
Hernandez came over from the Padres in the Carlos Quentin deal and was rocked in his one big league start this year, although he's put up solid (if unspectacular) lines at both Double- and Triple-A. The undersized lefty is an almost classic Twins pitcher in that he throws strikes and doesn't miss bats. He does have solid velocity for a southpaw, sitting at 89-92 mph with his fastball, but it comes in straight and often up, leading to a disturbing fly ball rate. Neither his slider nor his changeup are especially effective, and the entire package leaves most projecting future relief work for him. Still, some in the industry believe that he could be a back-of-the-rotation type. —Kevin Goldstein
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"'He has enough stuff,' Ryan said. 'He's got a fastball, slider and a change. He throws a lot of strikes, which is good, but I'm not going to say he pitches to contact. No, he doesn't do that. He pitches to get outs.'"
I like that the Twins acquire pitchers who get outs, as opposed to all of those other organizations that waste time getting pitchers who do not get outs.
What is there to say? This seems like a meager haul for Liariano, even if he is a rental, in that at-best you have a utility infielder and a No. 4 or No. 5 starter. (And the Twins already have a breeding program in place in the greater Minnesota area for this anyway, creating cyborg-human hybrids that specialize in throwing 88 to 92 with nice change-ups and meh breaking balls. Oh, you thought Brad Radke retired? Don't be so naive.)
Does this deal reflect a new norm post CBA for pending free agents that are not superstars? The leverage seems to have been stripped away from the sellers (trade him or get nothing) and as acquisitions they are less attractive because they will not result in compensation picks.
Under the previous agreement, the sellers weighed the trade proposals against compensation picks (if they survived the offer of arbitration) and certain organizations valued the compensation picks that came along with acquiring pending free agents.
Is the pending free agent the new market inefficientcy?
Who else besides the White Sox are exploiting this?
The Chisox sent the Twins 2 C+ prospects who are ML ready for an inconsistent pitcher.
These farm systems are "rated" by the farm-hands who could become major league regulars, but not stars. So whether your farm system has 5 C+ prospects of 50 of them, it won't show up in the ratings.
Williams has been using his C+ prospects. He's used some (Axelrod, Septimo) and has moved some. And if he had B+ and A prospects, he'd move them. To his credit, he actually uses his assets. Many timid GMs from supposedly "smart" systems, let them die on the vine.
Williams' best moves, however, have come off the waiver wire: De Aza and Quintero.
Here's the long comment:
The Twins have been completely unable to produce middle infielders.
So for the last several years they have:
-traded for a series of 2nd division/utility type prospects (Casilla, Bartlett),
-acquired old-guy stopgaps (Carroll, Everett, Cabrera)
-taken an improbable flyer (Nishioka)
-and made one smart move (Hardy) that was then nullified when they dumped him.
If they had relied on their minor league system we'd still be running Matt Tolbert (shudder) out there.
Because of their payroll (Mauer etc) they aren't about to put real money into a free agent middle infielder (so, for example, they were not in on the Jose Reyes game, or even someone like Furcal)
They need cheap, cost-controlled middle infielders. Their minor league system has nobody even remotely close.
It's worth considering how badly - and why - the Twins have been so lousy at producing middle infielders. Who has actually come out of the Twins system in the last 6-8 years as a middle infielder? Tolbert? And...?
Escobar has the potential upside of a lousy-hitting, good-fielding 2nd division SS. And that's better than anything they have. It's also better than anything they could afford to acquire as a FA, except for someone like Carroll at the tail end of their career (Dozier will need to move to 2nd and he's no better than a 2nd division player anyway)
So, a cost-controlled SS who possibly projects to be, what, about the 20-30th best starting SS in the majors, is something the Twins don't have and they DO need.
The saddest part of this deal is that in fact they NEED Escobar.
Is it hopeless for the Twins to try Trevor Plouffe at SS again?