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Francisco Liriano, formerly thought to be the future face of the Minnesota Twins, can become a free agent after the 2012 season. With the Twins apparently not looking to lock the 27-year-old up with a long-term deal, however, there are numerous rumblings that the pitcher could be traded.
The Star Tribune's Joe Christenson first mentioned the possibility of Liriano being traded late last week and soon after ESPN 1500's Tom Pelissero confirmed the report, saying the Twins would be open to dealing Liriano "for the right price."
It seems a bit odd that the Twins wouldn't be interested in extending Liriano's contract, but the fact of the matter is, as Christenson points out in his article, is that the pitcher's stock may never be higher.
Other teams couldn't help being intrigued after Liriano went 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA last year with 201 strikeouts in 191 2/3 innings. Liriano ranked second in the majors behind Roy Halladay in xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching), a stat that measures just what the pitcher controls -- such as walks, strikeouts and home runs -- and to some analysts is a better predictor of a pitcher's future success than ERA.
La Velle E. Neal, one of Christenson's colleagues at the Star Tribune, said today in his chat from spring training that he didn't believe the Twins were trying to move Liriano but rather being practical.
I don't think the Twins are actively shopping him. I think they are looking at things practically by not extending him now. He's got to prove he can do it again. If the Twins are 15 games out in July, then Frankie and others could be on the block. If the Twins are in it, they are nuts for even thinking about dealing him.
If the Twins end up shopping Liriano, they must keep an open mind all examine every option. Would it be minor leaguers only? A mix of prospects and regulars? Are they taking any salary on. I say keep him for now and be prepared to lock him up if he has another good season.
Whether or not the Twins are actively looking to trade Liriano, this will probably be one of the biggest stories surrounding the Twins until the season actually begins -- and maybe beyond.