2014 statistics: 162.1 IP, 29 GS, 9.70 K/9, 4.49 BB/9, 0.72 HR/9, 3.38 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 1.6 fWAR
2015 age: 31
Position: Left-handed starting pitcher
Francisco Liriano burst onto the scene for the Twins in 2006, notching 12 wins and just three losses to begin his first full season in the big leagues. That year, together with AL MVP Justin Morneau and in-his-prime Johan Santana, Liriano helped make the Minnesota Twins one of the best teams in the majors. However, all this promise was cut short, as Liriano injured his throwing arm in August of ‘06, eventually leading to Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss all of 2007. Since displaying such amazing initial promise, Liriano has struggled with inconsistency. He's gone from terrible - no doubt the Twins expected more than a 5.80 ERA and 4.87 FIP in 2009 - to terrific (5.8 fWAR and a 2.66 FIP in just under 200 innings in 2010). Eventually, the Twins cut ties with Liriano, shipping him off to the White Sox for a pair of prospects in 2012. The following offseason, Liriano joined the Pirates on an incentive packed two-year deal. It was a low-risk, high-reward signing for the Pirates - and it paid off mightily.
Liriano experienced quite a resurgence in 2013, posting a 2.92 FIP and 3.1 fWAR in 161 innings while displaying the hard fastball and devastating slider that made him so successful early in his career. While he didn't quite match that success in 2014, he still proved to be a dependable cog in a playoff-caliber rotation and finished with the second-highest fWAR of any Pirates starter (behind Gerrit Cole...oh, what could have been). While his inconsistency will probably prevent him from getting a lucrative, long term deal, Liriano is certainly a good lefty. He might not be the ace that can carry a team through the playoffs on his own, but he'd be a solid third starter with some upside on a playoff-caliber team.
The Yankees are a lock to add some starting pitching this offseason. While their rotation has a lot of promise, it also has an inordinate amount of question marks (which have already been addressed ad nauseam). In an effort to mitigate the risk all these questions pose, the Yankees surely will bring a starter to build some much needed depth. They've already said they'd like to bring back Brandon McCarthy, but Liriano would be a good alternative if McCarthy is looking for more than the Yankees are willing to shell out. Liriano would give the rotation the lefty it needs, and additionally, his game should translate perfectly to Yankee Stadium. Liriano had the sixth highest groundball rate in the majors in 2014 and has a 48.8% groundball rate over his career. He's also consistently limited home runs (0.81 HR/9 career average), which is always a pro when playing half your games in the Bronx.
While the Yankees probably favor McCarthy over any of the other arms on the market, Liriano would not be a bad fit if they want to avoid the top end free agent starters. A hard-throwing lefty would be a welcome addition to the rotation, especially one that can keep the ball on the ground and out of the bleachers. Liriano is still just 31 and likely has at least a few solid years left. He'll probably end up getting three or four years at $10-15 million per, and while four years and $60 million should be more than the Yankees are willing to spend on Liriano, if he can be had for something close to 3 years, $30 million, the Yankees should definitely give Liriano some serious consideration. He'd be just the kind of pitcher to give them depth and some upside, while not requiring a massive commitment in both dollars and years.