Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Would the Twins consider Liriano for closer?

With the recent news that Joe Nathan has signed a free agent contract with the Texas Rangers, the Twins are now trying to sort out who will be the team's closer for the 2012 campaign. In yesterday's post, I wrote briefly about the Twins considering Jonathan Broxton for a late inning role with the team. If the Twins decide to go in a different direction, there are plenty of paths to consider for the man to replace Nathan.

During Spring Training in 2010, the Twins were forced to deal with a devastating arm injury to Nathan. The closer's role was open for the taking and there were multiple options on the table. One name that was discussed for the closer role was left-handed pitcher, Francisco Liriano. In the 2010 Winter League, Liriano had created some buzz with a good performance but he had yet to return to his pre-Tommy John form. The Twins went in a different direction that offseason and dubbed Jon Rauch the closer for the start of the 2010 campaign but the thought of moving Liriano was still there.

Flash-forward to the offseason before the 2012 season and the Twins are currently without someone to fill the role of ninth inning pitcher. Terry Ryan has already announced that Glen Perkins is unlikely to serve in the closer's role for next season because the team prefers to leave as the set-up man. Another familiar name that has been thrown around is signing free agent Matt Capps to come back as the team's closer. For many Twins fans, the thought of relying on Capps is hard to swallow.

Would the Twins ever reconsider moving Liriano to the closer role?

Aside from his no-hitter in the early part of the year, the 2011 season was not a great one for Mr. Liriano. He scuffled to a 9-10 record with an ERA of 5.08 and a 1.489 WHIP. The coming season will be the last one in which he will be under team control and his future with the club is definitely in doubt. The team is going to have to see something in Liriano this season to warrant a contract for future years.

This means there is a lot on the line for Mr. Liriano in the 2012 season. He will be playing for his first free agent contract and for many players that can be a push that produces performance on the field. The Twins have seen a player like Perkins make the switch from starter to very effective relief pitcher. A move by Liriano to the bullpen could be similar to Perkins in that it would allow him to put a little something extra on his pitches. At times, the Twins saw dominating stuff from Perkins in 2011 and Liriano has not shown some of his electric stuff since his elbow surgery.

From reports, it seems that the closer for next year's version of the Twins is not currently on the roster. Ryan said when talking about the closer role in a recent interview, "I think you're wise to ultimately see if you can find a guy with experience." It is interesting to note that Nathan had no experience as a closer when Ryan traded for him from San Francisco. But if you follow the message of this quote, Liriano does not fit that stipulation and ultimately the Twins will be a better team if he returns to form in the starting rotation.

If the Twins fail to bring in a closer with experience, it will be interesting to see if Liriano's name is ever mentioned as a candidate for the closing role. In a bind, the organization has considered him in the past...

...but it seems as if another option will be the Twins ninth inning man for 2012.


Adam Krueger said...

I like the out-of-the-box thinking, but what would the Twins do with his rotation slot? A reliever/closer is going to be a lot cheaper than a starter.

jeff said...

I would be concerned about his focus and ability to control his adrenaline as a closer.

SpanMan said...

This would help him with his high pitch count issues. I also remember seeing once how there was a correlation between time through the lineup and a rising opponent batting average. Closing would also eliminate that issue.

Baseballpaul said...

I remember hearing clamoring for Frankie in the bullpen before, and I liked it, and I'm hearing in now, and I like it. True we're already in the market for a starter and finding two starters is a lot easier than a reliever, but I think Frankie could be a great end of the game guy. Just go out there and throw gas, mix in that slider and the change up. get in, get outs, get done.