Early today I speculated whether or not pitcher Francisco Liriano was still in the Pittsburgh Pirates plans for the 2013 season.
That question was answered rather quickly.
Earlier today, the Pirates and Liriano finalized their their two-year agreement exactly one month after it was reportedly agreed upon. According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the deal now includes language that protects the Pirates in case Liriano misses time due to an injury to his non-throwing arm, which he injured in late December after the two parties reportedly agreed to the original deal.
Liriano will still earn the $12.75 million through two years if he misses no time due to the right arm injury, but his 2013 salary would be reduced if he does miss time because of it.
He should be penciled in as the No. 4 starter in the Bucs rotation behind A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonald and will be a project for Pirates’ pitching coach Ray Searage.
Liriano still has a live arm as his fastball averaged around 93 MPH a season ago and posted a nice strikeout rate of 9.6 K/9.
But his issue has been control.
Liriano posted a 5.34 ERA with a 5.0 BB/9 and a 43.8 percent ground ball rate in 156. 2 innings. It was the second consecutive season that Liriano had an ERA above five and walked five batters per nine innings.
However he is only 29 and only two years removed from a big season in 2010, when he posted a 3.62 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9, generating some Cy Young votes.
If the Pirates can get some of that type of production out of Liriano, and a switch to the National League should help, then they may have found themselves a weapon.
But Liriano, like the rest of the Pirates rotation is a huge question mark. If he can’t regain his form, the Pirates re-signed Jeff Karstens and also have youngsters Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson who could challenge for spots in the rotation.
It is unclear if Liriano will be ready when pitchers and catchers report in three weeks.
It is also unclear if Pirates general manager Neal Huntington will continue to seek pitching help, but chances are that the Pirates are done spending money this offseason.