Francisco Liriano nearly pitched his way out of baseball before he signed with the Pirates two years ago.
Two very good seasons later, he’s reportedly pitched himself into a three-year, $39 million deal to stay in Pittsburgh.
Liriano, 31, was thought to be a second-tier option for teams that missed out on or simply couldn’t afford to go after Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, and James Shields.
Given the money in the game right now, Liriano likely would have had more offers and more lucrative offers if he’d waited for the Lester logjam to clear, but the lefty clearly opted for comfort by choosing to re-up with Pittsburgh.
Liriano has established a good rapport with pitching coach Ray Searage and has had great success since moving to the National League, so his decision doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
As a fan of both the Minnesota Twins fan and comeback stories, I’m just happy to see Liriano finally reach this level of success.
The Southpaw came up with the Twins in 2006 and looked to be the heir-apparent to Johan Santana as the staff ace in Minnesota until Tommy John surgery cut his rookie season short.
Liriano missed the entire 2007 season and struggled to regain form and consistency when he returned from the surgery.
He was named the American League Comeback Player of the Year in 2010 when he won 14 games with a 3.67 ERA, 1.263 WHIP WHIP, and a 201/58 K/BB ratio over 191.2 innings. The Twins chose not to trade Liriano that offseason, despite reported interest from a number of teams.
The next year, the wheels came off again and Liriano struggled mightily for the next year and a half before he was dealt to the Chicago White Sox in a 2012 deadline deal. The White Sox chose not to re-sign Liriano after he posted a 5.40 ERA, 1.518 WHIP, and a 58/32 K/BB ratio in 56.2 mostly forgettable innings.
Liriano and the Pirates agreed to a two-year, $12.75 million deal in December of that year, but the deal was re-negotiated after Liriano broke his non-pitching arm playing with his kids.
The new deal was a one-year pact for $1 million guarantee with a vesting option for 2014 and a number of bonuses and incentives that could get the value back to the original $12.75 million if – and only if – Liriano could get healthy and regain his previous form.
As it turns out, Liriano was up to the task.
After joining Pittsburgh, he underwent a complete resurgence. In his two years with the club he’s made 55 starts and won 23 games with a 3.20 ERA, 1.262 WHIP, and a 338/144 K/BB ratio in 323.1 innings.
At 31-years-old, no one is expecting Liriano to live up to the hype that surrounded him as a rookie, but he has regained his nasty slider, his confidence, and the faith of the folks signing his paychecks.
It’s been a wild ride for the one-time phenom, turned busted-prospect, turned restoration project, turned reliable veteran…here’s to wishing him nothing but success in the next phase of his career.