The Royals surprised many with their bold six-player deal to acquire Trevor Cahill from the Padres this week. But reports indicate they are not done trying to improve the team. Jon Heyman of FanRag reports they would still like to add another pitcher, to give them the option of moving Cahill to the pen. According to USA Today reporter Bob Nightengale, the Royals are interested in Blue Jays left-hander Francisco Liriano.
Been told that the Royals, like several other teams, have scouted Liriano's last two starts. But his inconsistency has been concerning.— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) July 26, 2017
Liriano was acquired by the Blue Jays last year at the trade deadline from the Pirates and is in the final year of a three-year, $39 million deal that will pay him just over $4 million the remainder of the season. Liriano has terrific talent but has struggled mightily with a 5.99 ERA and 4.90 FIP this year. In five of his seventeen starts, he has given up five runs or more, with just four “Quality Starts.” He has the fifth-highest walk rate in baseball among pitchers with at least 70 innings pitched, walking 4.9 per-nine innings.
Liriano can miss bats, with a high whiff rate in his career, striking out more batters than innings pitched. His strikeouts are down this year, but he still whiffs 8.2 per-nine innings. He has a big split this year, with lefty opponents striking out 27% of the time with a .646 OPS against him, while right-handers are hitting .295/.394/.512 against him.
The 33-year old has traditionally been a ground-ball pitcher, but his rate is down significantly this year, to 43%. He has been a sinker/slider/changeup pitcher, but gets into trouble when he throws his 93 mph fastball. Over the past three seasons, it has been one of the worst fastballs in baseball, according to Fangraphs.
Liriano was very good as recently as 2015, when he was a 3.6 WAR pitcher, according to Fangraphs, with a 3.38 ERA and 3.19 FIP for the Pirates. He has missed some time this year with shoulder inflammation and upper back and neck stiffness, so perhaps his poor performance can be blamed, in part, on that. He has been a bit BABIP-unlucky with a low strand rate, so the Royals could be counting on him being a “buy low” option that will improve down the stretch under pitching coach Dave Eiland.
With a thin farm system and not much financial wiggle room, the Royals will have to be creative to continue to add to this team. Francisco Liriano may not be the most attractive option, but if the Royals see an opportunity to get a pitcher who has a good track record they feel can turn things around, he could be a shrewd target.
Should the Royals pursue Francisco Liriano?
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