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Archive for February 10th, 2011

Is Francisco Liriano the offseason pitching acquisition for which Brain Cashman, and the Yankee fan base, has been patiently waiting?

Liriano would help round out the Yankees' rotation, but do health concerns make the rumored cost prohibitive?

According to a newspaper report out of Minnesota, the Twins’ recent inability to sign their talented young lefthander to a long-term deal has led some in the organization to consider trading him while his value is high. Not surprisingly, this news immediately prompted speculation about Liriano being traded to the Yankees. Over at IIATMS, Jason provided a nice rundown of various reactions to this rumor from throughout the Yankees’ blogosphere, but as always, the devil is in the details.

The Yankees’ farm system is brimming with highly regarded prospects, but most major deals involving the pinstripes always seem to center around two: Jesus Montero and Manny Banuelos. At this point, Montero, who some have compared to Frank Thomas and Mike Piazza, seems close to untouchable, but there has been no such indication regarding Banuelos. Although the TINSTAAPP (there is no such thing as a pitching prospect) concept is very popular in some circles, Banuelos’ scouting report suggests that he may be the exception that proves the rule. If the Yankees’ internal evaluations are as optimistic, trading this young lefty would seem to require an extreme level of prudence.

When healthy, Liriano has proven to be a terrific pitcher who excels at missing bats, which is usually a pre-requisite for dominance. However, the “when healthy” caveat can not be taken lightly. Although all pitchers are a risk, ones who have already exhibited a history of arm problems and undergone a Tommy John surgery carry with them an extra bright red flag.

The risk associated with Liriano’s injury history is further compounded by his impending free agency after the 2012 season. As a result, any team acquiring him would have two options: (1) sign Liriano to a long-term deal just one strong season removed from his recovery; or (2) wait until after 2012 and run the risk of having to give him a Cliff-Lee type contract. Even though money isn’t as much of a concern to the Yankees, sinking a pretty penny into an injury prone pitcher would probably make even the Steinbrenners swallow hard.

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