The parade of reclamation/bounce-back pitcher rumors continues.
According to Jim Bowden (caveat emptor), the Chicago Cubs have an offer out to Francisco Liriano. There is no word on the amount of, length of, or even type of (I’m sure it’s a big league deal) offer, though. It could be a legitimate offer, or it could be a “feel it out” kind of offer to get a dialog going.
Liriano, who just turned 29, was always on the short list of pitching names mentioned when discussing the Cubs’ offseason. A former stud, Liriano is coming off of back-to-back disappointing seasons (80 ERA+, 1.1 WAR in 2011; 78 ERA+, 1.8 WAR in 2012), but that history of awesomeness remains tantalizingly just off the edge of the screen. In 2010, Liriano had a 3.62 ERA in 191.2 innings with a 3.47 K/BB and a 6.0(!) WAR. Wouldn’t it be nice to get that Liriano on a one-year-plus-option deal?
His problems the last two years are both easy to identify and completely of his own making. It’s the walks. Although he’d previously been able to keep his BB/9 generally under 3.00, the last two years it has rocketed past 5.00. You cannot be a successful big league starter with a walk rate like that (unless you’re striking out 15 per 9), and it becomes even worse when the rate at which you’re giving up gopher balls climbs … as it did for Liriano the last two years.
Does he make sense as a rebound candidate for the Cubs? Well, he certainly checks the “talented” and “down year” boxes. In his tremendous 2010 season, his groundball rate was one of the higher ones in baseball, but he hasn’t historically been a groundball pitcher. Maybe that was just luck. But obviously an improvement in his GB rate (just 43.8% last year) would play well at Wrigley Field. He’s worth a flyer as your number five starter if you’re not expecting to be competitive (as the Cubs aren’t). But he’s not a guy I’d commit two years and more than $12 million to. The last two seasons have been just so very ugly.
A few million in 2013 and a team-friendly option for 2014? Sure. That makes sense. Anything more than that, and I’d be circumspect.
Jed Hoyer recently mentioned that his preferred approach is to target early the guys the Cubs really want in free agency, and commit to them with full force (we saw it last year with very early rumors on David DeJesus and Paul Maholm). That the Cubs already have an offer out to Liriano suggests that he’s among their top targets, together with, presumably, Brandon McCarthy and Shaun Marcum.