According to Robert Murray and Jon Heyman, the Pirates will be bringing back the guy who turned around his career in Pittsburgh the last two years. Francisco Liriano rejected a qualifying offer from the Pirates, but he’ll return for a fair bit more money: three years and $39 million.
One of the better arms on the second tier market, Liriano would have been an interesting late offseason target, depending on how everything else shook out. But, with Jason Hammel returning to the Cubs, it was unlikely that Liriano was going to become a serious pursuit for the Cubs. And, in any case, the Pirates were said to be making it a priority to get him back.
And, according to those reports, they have. It’s a fair deal for both sides, and a good move for the Pirates, who stood to have some question marks in their rotation if Liriano walked. The Pirates won’t get a draft pick now for Liriano signing with another team, but then again, they also won’t lose their first rounder for signing a qualified free agent. Given that compensatory picks come at the end of the first round, it’s a net gain, in effect.
Rumors on Justin Masterson are flying, and Hammel and Liriano are now off the board. Clearly, the second tier of the pitching market is shaking out, and they weren’t just waiting on Lester. (Or, teams have a good sense of where he’s going. We’ll see.)
Oh, also: while this is a completely fair deal for the Pirates, and Liriano has the superior upside, this deal makes me even more pleased by the Cubs’ Hammel deal.