Monday, July 30, 2012

Liriano Trade Reaction

By now everyone knows that Frankie Liriano was traded to the ChiSox. And there is no doubt you've heard the general displeasure with the return of Pedro Hernandez and Eduardo Escobar. I too, am generally displeased with the transaction, but I do have some thoughts to hopefully put the trade in a better perspective.

First off, I think we Twins fans overrated Liriano's value. We weighed heavily his last two months but discounted his 5.31 ERA overall and five years of incredible volatility. While it's easy to compare Liriano to a pitcher like Zack Greinke and wonder why Frankie couldn't even net one 'top prospect' while Greinke returned three. And it isn't difficult to foresee Liriano out-pitching Greinke in August/September - however, it's also easy to see Liriano walking eight batters in his first 3 innings for his new team. So while there's certainly upside in that left arm, enough clubs were turned off by inconsistency to not consider him a viable starter.

Secondly, Liriano needed to go. Not because he was ruining the clubhouse (his teammates loved him) or because he was hurting the team (I don't think I could hurt this team any worse), but because he had some value. The players of 'some value' on this team can be counted on one hand: Liriano, Perkins, Burton, Morneau and Span. And of those players, only Liriano and Burton have contracts that end after this season. There was no reason to risk keeping him for an extra 10 starts and then let him hit free agency. The upside to keeping Frankie was next to nil. The upside of trading him was much higher.

Lastly, the return of the prospects could still be reasonably valuable. Sure neither Hernandez nor Escobar are very shiny new toys, but they do have their virtues. Pedro Hernandez is a little lefty in the mold of Brian Duensing. According to scouting reports from Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, Pedro has good command and a good change-up to go along with a low-90's fastball. From what I can tell, he should take on a Duensing-like role as a swingman between the bullpen and rotation once he reaches the majors. It should be noted that Pedro has more potential than Duensing, and could become a consistent back of the rotation starter or 7th/8th inning reliever. Another key to the deal, he has made it to the majors but still has at least six entire years of team control remaining. On a pure value analysis, 2 months of Liriano in a lost season is certainly worth gambling on a kid like Hernandez over the next six or seven.

The other prospect, Eduardo Escobar, also has some value. Escobar is in the same situation as Hernandez, in that he will be a cheap option for the Twins for many years and has an obvious position as a utility infielder. My issue with this is the redundancy of the move. There aren't any starting jobs open in the infield with Dozier, Carroll and Casilla all fighting for starts and thrid base is manned by Plouffe and Valencia. The major league infield is loaded with quantity (emphatically NOT quality). However, his abilities are redundant in AAA as well. With Pedro Florimon as a near replica of Escobar in Rochester, his future is murky. I believe he will eventually top Florimon and become the utility infielder for the big league club, but the marginal improvement over the current options is small at best.

A team can never have enough pitching, so I understand and support trading for Hernandez; however, I do not understand trading for a player like Escobar. That said, Terry Ryan has surprised me umpteen times and I'll have to trust that Escobar can turn into something of value. All in all, on a pure value analysis, the return will almost assuredly be greater than the value of the departing player. And at the end of the day, it really couldn't be worse than the Johan Santana trade.

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