What’s Liriano’s price tag?

 Feb, 11 - 2011   no comments   Uncategorized

On the heels of the Star-Tribune report that Minnesota Twins ace Francisco Liriano could be available, loads of analysis poured in from every angle. Two pieces really caught my attention, one from Dave Cameron of Fangraphs and another from our buddy Jason Rosenberg’s IATMS site from writer Mark Smith. Here’s the highlights, first up is Mark Smith:

The question now becomes what he’s worth, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to avoid the question. At 9-10 wins over the next few seasons, Liriano will be worth about $50 million dollars, and after we subtract the $4.3 million salary for 2011 and possible $9 million for 2012, we are left with $37 million dollars of surplus value. According to Victor Wang, Jesus Montero ($36.5 million value as a Top 10 hitter) would be an equal swap for two years of Liriano’s services. If the Twins want pitching in return (probable), Manny Banuelos ($15.9 million as Top 11-25 pitcher) and Dellin Betances or Andrew Brackman ($12.1 million as a Top 51-75 pitcher—I’m probably being a little generous there, though not insane) would only be a start with about $7 million left. I realize that will probably start a riot around here, but pitchers are inherently risky because of injury. Yankees prospects are not immune. Another Grade B prospect or a couple C prospects would be necessary to complete the deal. Luckily, the perception of Liriano’s health and the Twins’ willingness to deal him might decrease some of the value needed to bring Liriano to the Big Apple.

As we discussed yesterday, Montero’s not a match unless you get a 3rd team involved. The Twins will want pitching in return, and may see the Killer B’s as guys who could help them out of the bullpen this year. So according to Mark’s numbers, we’re looking at TWO of the Killer B’s plus a B-level positional prospect in an area of need for the Twins. Figure David Adams or Eduardo Nunez.

Next up is Dave Cameron of Fangraphs, who has a very different take:

That leaves Marcum as the closest comparison to Liriano. Like Liriano, Marcum has a history of injury problems but returned to pitch at a high level last year. In fact, their 2010 innings pitched and ERA totals are nearly identical, and this showed in their 2011 contracts – Marcum avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $3.95 million deal, while Liriano got $4.3 million. While Marcum doesn’t throw as hard, they both have knockout secondary pitches which they lean heavily upon.

In return for Marcum, the Blue Jays acquired Brett Lawrie, who Keith Law recently rated as the 37th best prospect in baseball. Position prospects in that range are generally worth about $20-$25 million in value, based on Victor Wang’s research. While the Twins could likely argue that Liriano should be valued at a higher rate than Marcum (teams pay a premium for velocity and strikeouts, both areas where Liriano has a significant edge), I think they’d have a tough time getting significantly more than what Toronto received when they moved a similarly valued pitcher.

In other words, Twins fans can probably stop dreaming of someone like Jesus Montero, as the Yankees would likely balk at that asking price. But if they made Liriano available, the Yankees would be the most obvious suitor, and would likely pay a higher price than any other team. Perhaps they’d be willing to part with Manny Banuelos, who Law ranks as one of the game’s best pitching prospects? That might be enough to satisfy the perceived differences between Liriano and Marcum, but would it be a large enough premium to justify improving one of the Twins main rivals for the American League pennant?

Cameron thinks the top tier prospects won’t be required to get a deal like this done, but two obvious quesions emerge. Will it be worth it for the Twins to deal him? And as Cameron asks, what sort of premium would the Yanks have to pay as a major obstacle to the Twins post season aspirations?

If the Twins weren’t serious contenders for their division and in something of a rebuilding phase, it would make more sense to deal with the Yanks. But strengthening a potential October rival is something that’s got to be hard to sell to your fan base. A deal would have to fill immediate needs with MLB ready talent, so they can argue making the move improves their chances for 2011 while dealing from a position of excess. They need lots of bullpen help, and could use a middle infielder as well. As I discussed yesterday, the Yanks match up well and have good prospects in both areas. The question could come down to how much will Bill Smith want the Yanks to overpay, and how far will Brian Cashman be willing to go. Don’t forget that Bill Smith doesn’t need to make this deal, while Cashman does. Smith is in the driver’s seat here.

I have to figure that Mark Smith’s price tag is the one for the Yankees, while Cameron’s will be the price tag for a NL team. Would you make that first deal? Montero straight up or two Killer B’s+? I know many fans have concerns about Liriano’s health, but having come back fully from TJ last year I feel pretty confident in him going forward. If I’m Brian Cashman, I look to do a Montero-centered deal with a 3rd team involved. Catching is an area of great depth for the Yanks, and high ceiling pitching prospects are the types the Yanks need to hang on to. I doubt anything happens this spring, but if the Yanks feel Russel Martin is back to the player he was a few years ago, dealing Montero will be much easier to swallow.

What do you think? How far would you go for Liriano?

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