Liriano had quite the year in 2010. After the Joe Nathan injury there was speculation that he could become the next closer for the Twins. The Twins decided that it was best to leave Liriano in the starting rotation and by the time the postseason came around Liriano had emerged as the ace of the staff.
Liriano is 27 and will be under the Twins control for the next few seasons. His first year of free agency would be the after the 2013 season. He has seen is salary increase significantly over the last few seasons. In his second year of being eligible for arbitration he made $1.6 million. This year's arbitration numbers have the Twins coming in at $3.6 million and Liriano asking for $5.0 million.
Either one of those values would be a steal for the production that the Twins got out of Liriano in 2010. He pitched a career high 191.2 innings, struck-out 201 batters, and finished with a solid 14 wins. His wins above replacement for last season was 4.6 (which was even higher than his All-Star season of 2006).
The Twins should lock-up the Franchise by giving him a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth year. This will buy-out his remaining arbitration years and set the Twins up with their number one starter for the foreseeable future. I can see the contract breaking down like this with the arbitration figures that were released last week:
2011: $5.0 million
2012: $7.5 million
2013: $13.5 million
2014: $15.0 million (club option)
Total (4-years): $41.0 million
This would be a very similar contract to the one that was given to Zach Greinke by the Kansas City Royals before the 2009 season. The first year of the contract he was given $3.75 million, the second year $7.25 million, and the third and fourth years were worth $13.5 million each. There have been many that have compared the career paths of Greinke and Liriano. Liriano has had to recover from elbow surgery to regain his dominant form. Greinke has had to recover from depression issues to regain his dominant form.
In recent memory the Twins have given some long-term contracts that haven't worked the way that they have liked. Denard Span and Nick Blackburn were locked in to long-term deals during last offseason and both of them came out to have below average years in 2010. The year before that the Twins signed Scott Baker to a long-term deal and Baker has failed to become a top of the rotation hurler for the organization. It seems that in the Bill Smith Era the Twins have been very gracious when it comes to offering contracts to players to buy out their arbitration eligible years.
Will Bill Smith look at some of these contracts in the past as being failures? Or will he offer Liriano a contract that will make him worthy of the ace that he is becoming?
My vote is to lock-up the Franchise.