For years we have seen the Pittsburgh Pirates take gamble after gamble on aging veteran players, or players they hope will rebound after a few poor seasons, only to see these gambles backfire.
During the offseason, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington took another one of these gambles on Francisco Liriano, but so far this story has turned out differently. Liriano has not only panned out, but panned out in a big way.
With all of the injuries in the Pirates rotation this season, who would have thought that Liriano would be one of the rocks holding the Pirates pitching staff together at this point?
Sure Jeff Locke has been great and could be considered for an all-star berth and rookie phenom Gerrit Cole has given the Bucs staff a big lift, but it has been Liriano who has been consistently dominant from the first time he put on a Pirates uniform.
It’s not that Liriano doesn’t have the talent to be effective, but considering his journey to the Pirates, not many people would have expected a 6-3 record to go along with a 2.30 ERA in his first nine starts of the season. That holds especially true after a pair of dismal seasons in 2011-12 and a roller coaster ride of an offseason that featured a broken arm and a long saga that almost led to the Pirates not signing him at all.
Liriano is striking out 10.0 batters per nine innings and his walks are down, as he has posted a respectable 1.28 WHIP in 54.2 innings on the season.
Everything about Liriano in a Pirates uniform has been outstanding to this point and he could play a major role in why the Bucs’ pitching won’t collapse late for a third consecutive season.
If he continues to throw strikes with consistency, something that has been a problem his entire career, Liriano has the chance to be one of the better value signings in all of baseball.
The Pirates were due for one of their free-agent signings to pan out for a change and it is starting to look like Liriano will end up being better than expected.
However if there was a guy that was signed in the past five years that had the best chance to rebound, it would be Liriano. Unlike all of the other past signings, Liriano is a guy with legitimate major-league talent and at the age of 29 is still in the prime of his career.
It’s a little early to call Liriano a steal just yet but one thing is for sure: if he continues to pitch the way he has so far this season, Liriano could go down as Huntington’s best free-agent signing to date.
For a change it looks like Huntington rolled the dice and didn’t crap out.