Familiar Names Still Available

Francisco Liriano and Kyle Lohse.  Both became free agents after last season.  Both played for the Twins before.  Both got run out of town after pitching for the Twins for multiple seasons.  Both are commanding more the what the Twins are speculated to be willing to pay.  Both would improve Minnesota’s starting rotation in 2013.

As Terry Ryan looks to make one or two more moves before spring training starts, an infielder and one more quality starter remain on the top of the list.  Most of the quality free agents disappeared already as we are a month away from pitchers and catchers reporting.  Two pitchers of interest remain unsigned, the two former Twins.

Lohse declined the qualifying offer from St. Louis back in November which would have paid him $13.3M.  Surprisingly, no team has made an offer to Lohse since.  Since the Cardinals made the offer, the team that signs Lohse would need to relinquish their top draft pick in 2013 (top 10 protected).  Since the Twins pick in the top 10 this year, they would give up their second rounder.  At 34 years of age, the price tag remains too heavy and could be reduced the closer we get to spring training.

After 10 years bouncing around between the Twins, Reds, Phillies, and Cardinals; Lohse converted himself from a middle of the rotation starter to an ace in 2011 and 2012.  The biggest change Lohse made was going from a fastball pitcher to more of a sinker-baller.  Nearly half of his pitches the last two years were sinkers.

Lohse followed up a career high 3.39 ERA in 2011 with an even better 2.86 ERA in 2012.  He also set career highs in wins (16), win percentage (16-3, .842), strike outs (143), innings pitched (211), hits per nine innings (8.2), home runs per nine (0.8), walks per nine (1.6) and strike outs per walk (3.76).   Each of those would have led the 2012 Twins staff.

In December Liriano agreed to a 2 year, $12.75M deal with Pittsburgh, according to Jon Heyman.  Liriano then injured his non-throwing right shoulder, and the deal fell through; thus, dropping him into the free agent pool again.  Liriano struggled as a starter since his big season in Minnesota in 2010, and even spent time in the bullpen for the Twins before being traded to Chicago this past season.

He lost some velocity on his fastball in 2011 and 2012.  After averaging 93.5mph on his fastball in 2010, it dropped to 91.8 in 2011 and 92.8 in 2012 according to Fangraphs.  After undergoing Tommy John surgery after the 2006 season, Lirano really only pitched well in 2010 when he went 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA in 191.2 innings.  He struck out a career high 201 batters that year, and gave up only 9 home runs.  He also walked only 2.7 batters per nine innings that year, a number which has been at least 5.0 each season since.  His ERA hasn’t seen a 3 or 4 at the beginning either.

Kyle Lohse has been trending in the positive direction these past two years, but he is 34 years old.  Many scouts still consider Liriano a guy filled with potential at age 29, but has struggled so much with his control lately.  Lohse’s asking price is much higher than that of Liriano, but Liriano would be much more of a risk than Lohse.  Both have encountered their fair share of issues in their time in Minnesota in the past, both on and off the field.  It’s entirely realistic that either one of these potential signings would prove a total flop.  However, it’s also realistic to think that either one would bolster Minnesota’s less-than-average rotation, and actually give the Twins a chance to play meaningful games in September this year.

Follow Twins Rubes on Twitter @twinsrubes.