The Detroit Tigers will be looking to deal veteran assets to acquire more prospects at the trade deadline. Francisco Liriano is one of those assets.
The Detroit Tigers are 2.5 games back in the AL Central as of this writing. However, that does not mean they shouldn’t be sellers at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Especially with Miguel Cabrera out for the season, this team should be dealing all of their viable trade pieces in order to continue re-stocking the farm system and building for a contention window a few years down the road.
One of those pieces is left-hander Francisco Liriano. Liriano has made 10 starts for the Tigers this season. He sports a 3.90 ERA with a 7.02 K/9 and a 3-2 record. He spent a few weeks on the DL with a hamstring injury, but is nearing a return after completing a rehab start on Sunday.
There are always a handful of teams looking for starting pitching at the trade deadline. We took a look at the Seattle Mariners and the Los Angeles Angels, both who are expected to show interest in Liriano.
The New York Yankees are another contending team that is looking for starting pitching, specifically left-handers. After losing Jordan Montgomery for the season to Tommy John surgery, the Yankees have been connected to fellow left-handers Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ. Should a deal for either of those players not come to fruition, the Tigers and Yankees could certainly find a way to line up on a Liriano trade.
Liriano and the trade deadline
Liriano is no stranger to trade deadline deals. In fact, he’s already been involved in three of them.
On July 28, 2012, Liriano was traded to the White Sox in exchange for Eduardo Escobar and Pedro Hernandez. Escobar of course developed into a quality starting infielder for the Twins, leading the league in doubles thus far in 2018.
After a stellar 2.92 ERA down the stretch, Liriano went 6-5 with an ugly 5.88 ERA across 18 starts for the Blue Jays in 2017. He was then dealt to the eventual World Series champion Houston Astros in exchange for veteran outfielder Norichka Aoki and prospect Teoscar Hernandez.
In case you haven’t been paying attention to the team up north, Hernandez has been a very solid player this season. He is hitting .268/.319/.550 this year with 12 home runs and five triples.
So the Blue Jays flipped Liriano coming off an extremely ugly first half and received a solid outfield prospect who is starting for their team just a few months later.
That’s a great sign for the Detroit Tigers, who will be trading a much better version of Liriano this July.
How the Yankees and Liriano Fit
The Yankees have an excellent farm system and have frequently showed willingness to deal prospects in exchange for veteran talent at the trade deadline.
The primary reason New York wants a left-handed starter is to stifle the Boston Red Sox, who struggle to hit left-handed pitching. Liriano has been flat-out elite against left-handed hitters this season, holding them to a .102/.185/.224 slash line. He has only allowed a line drive rate of 5.9% and a hard-hit rate of 20.6%.
Liriano might be the option that makes the most sense for the pinstripes. Happ has been elite against left-handed pitching as well, but Hamels (.269/.356/.404) has not.
Happ would be a great piece for the Yankees, but they’d have to give up high level prospects. And teams are always hesitant to deal good young talent to division rivals.
That could leave Liriano as the best option, based on New York’s needs.
What to expect in return
The Yankees have an incredible logjam of talent in the outfield. Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner are three elite starters. Giancarlo Stanton is their primary DH, but he can play the outfield as well. Jacoby Ellsbury has been on the DL almost all season, as has former prized prospect Clint Frazier.
However, Frazier is healthy now (he was recovering from a concussion) and has gone 3-for-8 in his three games back in pinstripes. At 23 years old and with 624 plate appearances accrued at Triple-A, he is ready for the big leagues. But the Yankees don’t have anywhere to put him.
Frazier was the fifth overall pick in the 2013 MLB draft. He peaked as high as #24 on MLB’s top 100 prospects, and was ranked #16 by Baseball Prospectus. Many feel he has the tools to be a 20/20 player, and the defense to stick in center field.
The Tigers have a fair amount of outfield talent, but most of their center field prospects are a few years away (although Daz Cameron is inching closer). Adding a talent like Frazier would be an instant boost to the Tigers young position player core. While many feel JaCoby Jones is the center fielder of the future, he still has some work to do with the bat. If Jones develops into the player many hope he can be, Frazier could always slide over to left or right field.
Of course, the Yankees have a handful of other prospects the Detroit Tigers could target. However, adding a big league ready outfield bat like Frazier would be a nice boost for this team. And, at just 23 years old, he’d be a big piece of their future as well.