June 25, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Francisco Liriano (47) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE
It's been just over a month since Francisco Liriano rejoined the Twins' rotation. Thirty-two days ago, who would've believed that on June 26, Liriano would be one of the American League's best pitchers over the previous month? FranKKKKKie has returned in dominant fashion, posting a 2.41 ERA and a 40:14 strikeout-to-walk ratio since reclaiming his rotation spot. Similar to the trend he carried throughout the majority of his stellar 2010 season, he's allowed one home run in that time. Opposing batters have put 90 balls in play against Liriano since May 25, and 49 of them (54.4%) have been on the ground.
In that time, FanGraphs pegs Liriano fifth among American League starters in both FIP (2.55) and WAR (1.2). Against all odds, Liriano could be just one start away from overtaking Scott Diamond as the team's leader in WAR on the season. The question at this point is, how many more starts in a Twins uniform should he be given?
If the Twins send Liriano to the mound to make the first start of the second half, they should be able to get him a maximum of six more starts by the trade deadline. It's pretty obvious what kind of impact six starts can have on someone's trade value, as it's been just six starts since Frankie was added back into the starting five and opinions on him have changed drastically. If he were to perfectly replicate his recent performance over those six starts, he'd carry a season ERA of 4.27 and 110 strikeouts in 109 2/3 innings into the deadline.
The problem with that philosophy is that Liriano has spent parts of seven seasons showcasing his mercurial nature. While he may be one start away from the team lead in WAR, and a handful of starts away from earning the trust of teams around the league, he's also just one or two implosions away from completely destroying what trade value he's already built.
Is trading Liriano even the best option overall? I doubt there are many out there who feel that keeping him around to make a qualifying offer for next season (roughly a $12MM salary) is the best way to go. Likewise, a long-term deal carries an overwhelming amount of risk.
Terry Ryan will have a lot of difficult decisions to make in reading the market. If he sells earlier, Liriano's stock will be lower but he may have a larger field of suitors; more teams are under the guise that they can contend at this stage. Any team acquiring Liriano right now will receive three full months of the lefty's services as opposed to two if they acquire him in late July... but his stock could theoretically be considerably higher by that point. Ryan will have to walk the tightrope between building value and overplaying his hand, and he'll have to effectively time his attempts to build up the greatest market for Liriano. Competition among potential suitors can help increase the return.
I'm curious to see what Twins Territory thinks of the situation, so let's do a poll:
What should the Twins do with Francisco Liriano?
Trade him before his next start! He's a ticking time bomb and has some value right now! (93 votes)
Trade him shortly after the All-Star break. (82 votes)
Trade him between the ASB and the deadline once more teams are certain if they're buyers or sellers. (205 votes)
Give him six more starts to maximize his value, even if it's risky. (91 votes)
Trade? We're 7.5 back! Division champs here we come! (125 votes)
I'm a glutton for punishment! Lock him up long-term! (94 votes)
690 total votes