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Charging the Mound: Can You Sell Liriano Now?

Chris Liss

Chris Liss

Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson is a co-founder of RotoWire.com and the only two-time winner of Baseball Writer of the Year from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He roots for the Reds, Bengals, Red Wings, Pacers and Northwestern University (the real NU).


-----Original Message-----
From: jeff@rotowire.com
Sent: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 9:37am
To: "Christopher Liss"
Subject: Charging

Hey Chris, welcome back from your 40th birthday bacchanalia. Hopefully nobody got defenestrated in all the revelry. I want to get your opinion on a handful of items, many of them trade related.

- Francisco Liriano was in danger of losing his rotation slot for the Twins before Tuesday night and instead threw a no-hitter against the White Sox. It certainly wasn't the most dominant of no-hitters – he had six walks, only two strikeouts, and only 66 of his 123 pitches were for strikes. Perfectly enough, the opposing pitcher was Edwin Jackson, who threw an ugly-duckling no-hitter of his own just last year. Because Liriano had been pitching so poorly before this start, he wasn't active in a lot of leagues (especially innings-cap leagues) and he had even been dropped in some thinner leagues. How different was this start from his previous starts? Was it just a case of the cold weather and the cold White Sox bats that helped him achieve this milestone? I noticed that he did a better job of maintaining his velocity in this start than he did earlier in the year, hitting 93-94 mph on the radar in the ninth inning (at least according to the radar readings on the broadcast).

The more important question is what do we do with Liriano if we still own him? The natural impulse is to say to sell-high, but I'm not so sure that's correct. For starters, most of our league-mates are capable of reading boxscores and game logs, and can see what he's done earlier this year and even find the flaws in this no-hitter. While his 2010 numbers will help us in the selling process, I get it that most putative trade partners are going to want more. So I'm dubious that you can get real value in return by putting him on the block right now. I'd rather gamble on whatever percentage likelihood that he builds off of this and improves over the next few starts.

- Sometimes the format of a particular league makes it more difficult to get a trade done. There's no shortage of activity in the Yahoo Friends & Family league – already six of the 14 members of the league have made 20+ moves, and there's only two stragglers that have made less than five. In an innings-cap league and a daily pickups format, most of your roster churn can come from the waiver wire. But because of that, there's less incentive to trade, especially when it comes to starting pitchers. That doesn't mean that trades can't happen, but more often they're going to come in the form of a challenge trade (two guys at the same position) or in chasing a particular scarce commodity (most often saves).

- Speaking of which, Scott Pianowski and I finally pulled off one challenge trade. I sent Jeff Francoeur to him for Seth Smith. It's not so obvious that I'm selling-high on Francoeur (in fact, I'm selling-medium if anything in getting Smith in return). This isn't the first time that Francoeur has gotten a dead-cat bounce with a new team. After the Mets traded for him, he hit .311/.338/.498 in 75 games in 2009 before collapsing in 2010. After the Mets traded him to the Rangers, he hit .340 in 53 at-bats (albeit with just one walk). His plate discipline hasn't changed at all, with his walk and contact rates remaining pretty close to historical levels. So is there reason to believe that this is anything more than a hot streak? He's in his age-27 year, so it's entirely plausible that he's in his peak years. He's in a situation where there's precious little pressure, yet he's getting regular playing time without having to look over his shoulder to see who might replace him. And he'll probably get an uptick in his stolen bases for the season (three already) given the Royals' running ways. Should I have held on Frenchy, or was this the right time to sell?

- Your pickups of my drops in the same league seems to be working out quite well for you. Ian Stewart is already back up with the Rockies, after a brief stint where he killed it at Colorado Springs. Give me a projection on what you expect from him the rest of the year. Meanwhile, Brandon Belt is putting up video game numbers in Fresno, and the Giants are having him play in the outfield this time. Give me a date on when they tire of the Pat Burrell and/or Cody Ross experience and call Belt back up. If you want to vulture off of my other drops, here's a few more of my recent cuts: Mark Trumbo, Sean Burnett, Ramon Hernandez, Wilson Valdez and Chris Davis. Have at it.

- I'll finish with a non-fantasy related note. Who in the AL Central is good enough to make a run at the Indians? How surreal is it to ask that question in the first place? I'm still looking for an opportunity to fade them, but which of the failing quasi-contenders (Twins, Tigers, White Sox) will right the ship, and which of them are really truly this stinky?

Oh, and I want to get a good poker analogy out of you from one of these topics if possible, along with a few tips on turning 40, as I'm merely four weeks behind you.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 5:00pm
To: jeff@rotowire.com
Subject: Re: Charging

Thanks for your concern. Several were defenestrated actually, but fortunately they were refenestrated shortly thereafter.

I'm still worried about Liriano. He had a seemingly minor shoulder problem in the spring, the Twins refused to sign him to a reasonable contract extension despite Liriano turning in a fantastic season the year before, and he's been terrible for the first month. That some batted balls found gloves and didn't plate the baserunners he walked is nice, but it's hardly enough to move the needle. The increased velocity is good, but remember Jonathan Broxton was clocked at 96 mph earlier in the year, and now he's shelved with elbow problems. Bottom line - the outing was good for two reasons (1) It wasn't a disaster; and (2) His confidence should be up as a result. Beyond that, I don't think it's a huge deal, and I would deal him for a Trevor Cahill, Yovani Gallardo or Josh Beckett without a second thought.

I offered Brad Evans and Michael Gehlken trades today. For Evans, I offered Alex Gordon and Orlando Hudson (before he went on the DL) for Brandon Phillips as Evans needs a 3B badly. For Gehlken, I offered Brandon Belt or Matt LaPorta for Scott Sizemore. Let's see if those cowards are willing to act.

I probably would take Smith given his park. If he manages 550 at-bats, he could have a bigger year, I think, than the streaky Francoeur. But it's close enough that I don't feel strongly about it.

As for Stewart, I don't have a projection, and anyway, who cares about his 50th percentile numbers. His upside is 30 HR and 7-8 SBs the rest of the way, while qualifying at 3B, which is why I took him. Sure, Jose Lopez and Ty Wigginton are around, but Stewart's the 26-year old prospect who can field the position, so if he hits, those other two will give way. I think Belt will be up within a week or so probably. He's killing Triple-A, and Cody Ross and Pat Burrell were reclamation projects last year. Sure, they panned out and were a nice story, but if Belt is ready - and he certainly can't prove anything more in the minors - they're not going to block him for long.

The Indians are for real if the pitching (Justin Masterson, Fausto Carmona and Josh Tomlin) keep it up. They're benefiting from a healthy Grady Sizemore, Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana and Travis Hafner (at least until a few days ago). And Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley are one year further along and not being messed with. I think they'll be like last year's Padres - in it until the very end, but it remains to be seen whether the other teams will be as good as the Giants last year. I think the White Sox and Twins have the best chance to catch them, particularly if Jake Peavy and Joe Mauer can return reasonably soon.

-----Original Message-----
From: jeff@rotowire.com
Sent: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 8:31pm
To: "Christopher Liss"
Subject: Re: Charging

Until we had a caller on our show saying that he was offered Gallardo for Liriano, I didn't believe that sort of value was possible. But maybe I'm off on that - if I were offered Cahill or Beckett for Liriano in AL Tout Wars, the one league where I own Liriano, I'd take it in a second. That said, I suppose that is a reasonable buy-low offer, though in the case of Beckett, he was only $2 cheaper on draft day anyhow. Cahill went for $8 less, however, so that would be an interesting profit-taking exercise by Larry Schechter if he offered it. Liriano owners out there - have you had any sort of success selling him off? What sort of deals are you looking at?

I tried to pull a deal with Funston on the air, and if it weren't for your meddling, he might have gone for it. It's still sitting there as an offer in his queue nonetheless. It's a challenge trade - he's got Captain Groundball at shortstop, and he's tiring of what Jeter is doing to his offense. I'm willing to take the chance that he'll bounce back, and give me a guy that scores runs and (hopefully) hits for average. I don't think that the power is coming back, though. I've offered Jhonny Peralta, who also qualifies at 3B (and given that Funston is starting Sean Rodriguez there right now, that sort of optionality matters some). So stay off my trade!

Tomlin is interesting - despite a 2.45 ERA and an 0.91 WHIP, he's still only 48% owned in all Yahoo leagues headed into Wednesday's start against the A's, and he's a free agent in F&F, probably because he has little pedigree and only 18 K's in 33 innings. His availability here speaks to how much this has become a K/9IP league when it comes to pitchers - a 1250 innings cap is extraordinarily low. I noticed the other day in that respect that Zach Britton is also still available. Have we gotten too dogmatic about chasing K's to let guys like that go unowned? Anyhow, Tomlin has five starts going into Wednesday, and has faced the Royals twice, the Orioles, the Mariners, and the Red Sox when they were going through their 0-6 stretch to start the season. What sort of chance do you give him to keep it up? Of the three starters you mentioned (Carmona, Masterson and Tomlin), which one do you believe in most?

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 8:47pm
To: jeff@rotowire.com
Subject: Re: Charging

I think Carmona is the safest, but has a low ceiling, given his groundball/low K-rate tendencies. I'd take Masterson who has the best chance for a real breakout, though I'm not sold on him to keep it up all year. Tomlin's gotten a little lucky, but even last year, he was serviceable given the low walk rate and pitcher's park.

And our low innings cap does limit who we can conceivably start. While a low-K, strong ERA, WHIP and wins guy is worthwhile, wins are tough to bank on, and every pitcher, especially those who rely on balls in play, gets hit sometimes. It's hard to imagine using anyone but an elite non-K guy, e.g., Tom Glavine in his prime. Otherwise, you need to fall back on the strikeouts. To that end, I just picked up Homer Bailey, who struck out nearly a batter an inning last year. He starts against the Astros tomorrow, and I hope he's not too rusty.

As for Funston, I offered him a far better deal than you did - Matt LaPorta and Nate McLouth (20 runs scored) for Jeter. I just lost Orlando Hudson to the DL (and Rafael Furcal's on the DL for me already), so I need a MI. Otherwise, I would not overpay to that extent. I almost hope he turns it down because it's too generous.

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