Potential Trade Candidate: Francisco Liriano

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Potential Trade Candidate: Francisco Liriano

Posted on 26 April 2012 by Aaron Somers

While the trade market doesn’t traditionally become active before early summer, it’s never too early to begin an examination of some of the potential options that may be available either now or in the coming months. Regardless of what date the calendar reads, pitching is always put at a premium on the trade market anytime a quality option is made available. The key word there is quality, however, and defining that fairly is often a situation that isn’t always quite so cut and dry.

Which brings us to Minnesota Twins’ left-hander Francisco Liriano.

To see Liriano mentioned as a potential trade candidate would have seemed unfathomable a few years ago. As Spring Training got started prior to the 2008 season, the Twins felt confident enough in Liriano’s ability to lead their pitching staff, despite the fact that he was still recovering from Tommy John surgery, that they shipped the ace of their staff, Johan Santana, to the New York Mets. From 2008-2011 Liriano appeared in 100 games for the Twins (93 starts) and pitched a total of 538.2 innings. He posted a 34-37 record over that span with a 4.58 ERA, 8.4 K/9, and 3.8 BB/9. His best season came in 2010 when he finished 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA in 31 starts (191.2 IP). He posted a 9.4 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, and a league-leading 0.4 HR/9 while coming in 11th in Cy Young voting at season’s end.

To date he’s been a different pitcher, posting a 0-3 record and 11.02 ERA through his first four starts (16.1 IP) of the 2012 season. Command has been a big problem thus far, as he’s walked more batters (13, 7.2 BB/9) than he’s struck out (12, 6.6 K/9) while allowing a career high 13.8 H/9. The Twins sit at the bottom of the AL Central as their problems go beyond the disappointing start from Liriano. Should they continue, there are a handful of pieces the team could look to deal prior to the July trade deadline.

None of the four players the Twins received for Santana have provided significant value to the organization, which could make some leary of what a potential return could be for Liriano but ultimately shouldn’t affect any potential negotiations. Carlos Gomez batted .248/.293/.352 over two seasons before being traded to Milwaukee for J.J. Hardy. Kevin Mulvey would only make two appearances (1.1 IP during the 2009 season) for the Twins before being dealt to Arizona to complete an earlier trade for Jon Rauch. Deolis Guerra has yet to reach the Major Leagues and is actually repeating Double-A for the 4th time this season, having finally been moved to the bullpen after proving ineffective as a starter. The final piece acquired by the Twins was, of course, Philip Humber, who just threw the 21st perfect game in MLB history earlier this month. He’s with his third organization since leaving the Twins as a free agent after the 2009 season.

Liriano’s youth should work to his advantage, as he won’t turn 29 until late October, but it may actually be unfair to compare this situation to the Santana deal. Santana was just coming off his 4th straight 200+ innings season and was still considered among the game’s top starters. Liriano, however, has fallen far from the expectations placed on his shoulders years ago and is not even the top starter on his team, let alone in the the American League. But, he still possesses some value. He’ll also be a free agent at season’s end. With some of the recent changes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the chances of the Twins receiving an additional draft pick if he signs elsewhere in free agency are much slimmer.

If the Twins can’t seem to turn things around they could look to trade some of their veteran options and those nearing free agency. Liriano could become a prime candidate at that point, though the level of interest other teams place on him may largely be influenced by how he pitches moving forward. Considering he’s only under team control through the remainder of this season his value could be limited to an acquiring team, but team’s often are willing to overlook such a detail if there is enough belief that a player could help them reach the postseason.

Liriano could prove to be an option for a contender in need of some rotation depth a month or two from now. There’s no chance he brings back a package similar to that which the Twins received for Santana in 2008, but it wouldn’t be out of the question for the Twins to seek a mid-level prospect when/if they look to move him this summer.

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Finding Keepers: San Francisco Giants

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Finding Keepers: San Francisco Giants

Posted on 26 March 2012 by Aaron Somers

Pitching is king when it comes to the San Francisco Giants, as the team is led by a pair of aces most other teams would love to have. But ever since the Giants’ World Series winning run in 2010 the organization has been striving to get back there, attempting to assemble a reliable (and consistent) offense while integrating some youth for the organization’s minor league system. But amid all that roster turnover, are there any viable keepers on this roster?

SP Tim Lincecum and SP Matt Cain are unquestionably the first names for this, or any similar list. Lincecum has thrown 200+ innings, won 13+ games, and struck out 200+ batters in each of the past four seasons, winning a pair of Cy Young Awards in the process. Meanwhile, Cain offers similar innings totals and an equally impressive ERA, but isn’t quite the dominant strikeout pitcher his teammate is. If you can get your hands on either player in your league, it’s a move worth making.

C Buster Posey is another easy choice, regardless of the positional scarcity. When he won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2010 he hit .305/.357/.505 with 18 HR and 67 RBI. It seems safe to assume that in time he could be even better. He just needs to stay healthy and avoid any detrimental collisions at the plate.

SP Madison Bumgarner is coming off a big 2011 season in which he went 13-13 with a 3.21 ERA in 204.1 innings. The left-hander proved in his first full season that he’s capable of being a reliable and quality Major League starter. Control has proven to be an asset for him, as he struck out 191 in 2011 versus a mere 46 walks, and could make him an asset to your fantasy baseball lineup under the right league setup.

OFs Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan are two names worth keeping an eye on, as they offer a fair combination of power (HR, 2B) and speed (SB). Neither is really worth a keeper selection, particularly with how deep the outfield class tends to be each year.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter (@BlogFTBleachers) for more of my thoughts on the great game of baseball. You can also follow my coverage of the Washington Nationals at District on Deck and the game as a whole at Blogging From The Bleachers.

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Finding Keepers: Miami Marlins

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Finding Keepers: Miami Marlins

Posted on 22 March 2012 by Aaron Somers

The transformation from Florida Marlins to Miami Marlins involved much more than a name change. There’s a new stadium. A new manager. A new shortstop. A new left-handed starter. A new closer. New expectations. But in the end the Marlins have assembled a group of talented players but a roster with just as many question marks as sure things. There’s potential there, on paper, but which players from the group are actual keeper candidates?

SS Jose Reyes is an easy choice to leadoff, both this list and the Marlins lineup. Some have questioned the switch-hitter’s motivation in years past, only to see him have a career year in a contract year. Those same people may expect him to return to those poor habits now that he’s gotten his big contract, but Reyes seems determined to prove his critics wrong.

RF Giancarlo Stanton – or Mike, as you may know him better as – has had “Home Run Leader” written all over him since he first arrived in the Majors wearing a Marlins uniform. Two seasons into his career he averages 36 HR and 95 RBI. In any 5X5 league those numbers are beneficial and valuable. And he’s just going to continue getting better.

SP Josh Johnson has started off each of the past two seasons by pitching to a sub-2.00 ERA through the first third of the season. Last year, of course, an injury cut his season short after just 9 starts (and 60.1 innings) but the results were once again there for the right-hander. If he can remain healthy, he’s a worthy addition to any fantasy baseball lineup.

CL Heath Bell is a unique case as the value of a closer, or any reliever for that matter, is entirely dependent on how your league is setup. Saves/holds, K/9, and ERA are the main categories that must be factors if you’re going to consider keeping a closer at any point in time. The position contains just too much volatility for it to be worth focusing on the back end of the bullpen. But if those categories mean something to your league, Bell’s a name worth keeping an eye on.

3B Hanley Ramirez‘s shift to third base lets him take advantage of some positional scarcity (the same exists at shortstop, but the pool of talented third baseman is seemingly shallower) which could boost him into that “keeper quality” player. Much of this is ultimately going to depend on how Ramirez performs at the plate, as his production has slipped the past two seasons in both the power and speed categories.

SP Mark Buehrle was Miami’s big starting pitching acquisition of the winter and the left-hander has been a reliable workhorse his entire career. He’s topped the 200 inning mark 11 seasons in a row, averages 15 wins per season, and holds a career ERA of 3.83.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter (@BlogFTBleachers) for more of my thoughts on the great game of baseball. You can also follow my coverage of the Washington Nationals at District on Deck and the game as a whole at Blogging From The Bleachers.

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DOs and DONTs: Washington Nationals

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DOs and DONTs: Washington Nationals

Posted on 05 March 2012 by Aaron Somers

Washington finished the 2011 season just a game below .500 for the first time since the Nationals came into existence just before the 2005 season. While it was a big step in the right direction for the organization as a whole, outside of Michael Morse (31 HR, 95 RBI) and Danny Espinosa (21 HR, 66 RBI) there remained few legitimate fantasy options worth pursuing on the active roster.

The team underwent some major changes over the winter months, particularly in the starting rotation. With a promising young outfielder you may have heard of – Bryce Harper – slated to join the team in Washington sometime this season, the Nationals’ fantasy landscape may be vastly different from just one year ago.

  • DO consider strongly when to draft Harper, particularly in keeper leagues. It seems evident that the hyped prospect and “once in a generation” talent will be joining the Nationals in Washington at some point early on this season. Most expectations are that he’ll remain in the minor leagues at least for the season’s first month (to prevent free agency by a year) but there are no guarantees when he’ll make his MLB Debut. He’s going to have to hit while in the minors and continue the new-found maturity he’s exhibited thus far during Spring Training in order to force the organization to get him in the lineup. You don’t want to draft him too early but you don’t want to wait too long either.
  • If your league counts holds in addition to saves, DON’T forget to keep Tyler Clippard in mind. His 38 led the National League in 2011 and he’s in position to put up similar numbers in 2012. Plus, don’t forget he was good for 11 bullpen wins in 2010.
  • DO take a flyer on second baseman Danny Espinosa. Considering the lack of quality second baseman across the Major Leagues, Espinosa has the potential to jump into that next tier of quality options at the position. He showed glimpses of a strong power potential (21, 66 – as mentioned above) but otherwise struggled at the plate with a poor batting average (.236) and on base percentage (.323). He could be poised to breakout this season as he continues to improve with more experience.
  • Meanwhile, Espinosa’s double play partner Ian Desmond is someone you DON’T want to rely upon as your starting shortstop option. Beyond an ability to swipe 25-30 bases he doesn’t provide much offensive value, at least not consistently.
  • Veteran Mark DeRosa is a potential bench option that I think you DO keep an eye on. After missing most of the past two seasons he finally appears to be healthy and has been swinging the bat well so far this Spring. He seems likely to get a high number of at bats between first base and right field. The added positional versatility could also be a plus.
  • DON’T count on much from Chien-Ming Wang and Adam LaRoche until they can prove their health first. Wang has missed far too much time to expect big things from him out of the gate, but he still holds too much potential to simply ignore. Keep him in mind on a late April waiver claim if your roster isn’t deep enough to stash him on the bench somewhere.
  • Both Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson are pitchers primed for big seasons, so DO consider them when drafting your pitching staff. Zimmermann is another year removed from Tommy John surgery and seems to be on the verge of a major breakout season which could place him among the NL’s best. Meanwhile, with Jackson joining his 9th organization in his 10th MLB season he’s likely to be extra motivated to prove to teams that he’s worth offering a multi-year contract to next winter.
  • If you’re hoping for strikeouts from your bullpen options, DON’T count on much from Brad Lidge. Sure, he holds a strong K/9 rate but his inability to pitch significant innings negates that value. He’ll likely find himself in middle relief situations with Washington, serving mainly as a veteran mentor in the bullpen rather than one of the team’s main options.
  • DO consider Jayson Werth as one of your outfielders. He can’t possibly hit any worse that he did last year, right?
  • DON’T forget that once he pitches 160-170 innings, Stephen Strasburg is going to be shut down for the season – regardless of where the Nationals are in the standings. The team is focused on Strasburg’s ability to help them win games long term and they aren’t going to risk anything by having him throw too much this season. Likely sometime in early to mid August Strasburg’s season will likely be done.

It’s certainly going to be an interesting season to watch in Washington as this team could surprise a lot of people after the strong offseason they just had. Which of these players will you be targeting in your upcoming fantasy baseball draft?

Be sure to check out the remainder of our series on DOs and DON’Ts to see how our staff evaluated your favorite team. Let us know whether you agree or disagree.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter (@BlogFTBleachers) for more of my thoughts on baseball. You can also follow my coverage of the Nationals at District on Deck.

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