Pirates close to signing Liriano to two-year deal
By Rob Biertempfel
Published: Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, 3:00 p.m.
The Pirates agreed to a two-year, $14 million deal with free-agent, left-handed pitcher Francisco Liriano.
General manager Neal Huntington would not confirm the deal, which is pending a physical that may not be completed until after Christmas.
Liriano was 6-12 with a 5.34 ERA and 1.468 WHIP in 34 games (28 starts) last season with the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox.
In 2011, he pitched a no-hitter but was 9-10 with a 5.09 ERA. He earned the most wins of his career in 2010, when he went 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA with the Twins. He is 53-54 with a 4.40 ERA over six full seasons, plus six appearances (four starts) in 2005.
The 29-year-old native of the Dominican Republic would join a Pirates rotation that includes A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonald. It seems likely that Kyle McPherson or Jeff Locke will hold down the No. 5 spot until 2011 overall No. 1 pick Gerrit Cole is ready.
Liriano, initially signed by the San Francisco Giants as an amateur free agent in 2000, enjoyed his best season in 2006 when he went 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA and was named to the All-Star Game. However, he tore an elbow ligament that season, which forced him to miss all of 2007.
He was named 2010 AL Comeback player of the Year.
The Twins moved Liriano to the bullpen in May after he started 0-5 with a 9.45 ERA. In July 28, the Twins traded him to the White Sox for two minor leaguers.
Liriano's 87 walks ranked sixth most in the AL last season, when he made $5.5 million.
With the addition of Liriano, the Pirates will allocate about $26.5 million of their projected $70 million 40-man payroll to the starting rotation.
Burnett will make $16.5 million (the Pirates will pay $8 million), Rodriguez will get $13 million (the Pirates will pay $8 million) and McDonald (arbitration eligible) likely will get about $3 million. Locke and McPherson will make the $500,000 major-league minimum.
Liriano provides a safety net in case Charlie Morton, who probably won't be back until July if all goes well, has an unexpected setback during his rehab from elbow surgery. His addition also would strengthen the case, at least from a financial standpoint, to trade closer Joel Hanrahan, who is expected to get about $7 million if he goes through arbitration.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7811.
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