The Pirates have been no stranger to making acquisitions via trade over the last few years. Derek Lee and Ryan Ludwick in 2011, A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez in 2012, Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau last year. Through some well-timed smart moves by Neil Huntington, the Pirates have added a few strong pieces, either in the interest of making a run (like the Byrd and Morneau deals), or in pursuit of solid talent with years of control. The Angels have apparently made it clear that Mark Trumbo would be available for trade, but the Angels are looking for pitching.
Enter Francisco Liriano. The Pirates have control over Liriano, but not any further. Liriano was incredible last year, but the possibility of dealing him for a first baseman or a right fielder with years of control is tantalizing at the least. Trumbo won’t be a free agent until 2017, and has been a consistent right-handed power bat for the Angels organization for the last few years.
Liriano on the other hand will only be signed for the 2014 campaign, and the Pirates may be stuck between a rock and a hard place. If Liriano follows the pattern of the rest of his career(or just the laws of averages), he won’t be as impressive this next season as he was in 2013. Liriano has had trouble repeating solid seasons throughout his career, but even if he pitches well in 2014, there’s a possibility that he’ll receive a huge payday in free agency, where pitchers have a tendency to be woefully overpaid by desperate teams.
There are two big problems with the possibility of a Liriano for Trumbo deal: First, the Pirates pitching staff may already be a bit shorthanded going into 2014, if A.J. Burnett keeps having as much fun this offseason as he has so far. If Burnett retires and the Pirates deal away Liriano, they’ll be out two members of this year’s five man rotation. Second, Trumbo strikes out a ton. While the possibility of having another power bat to complement Pedro Alvarez in the middle of the lineup is enticing, adding Trumbo’s 184 Ks from 2013 to El Toro’s 186 would be brutal. The Pirates already strike out far too much as a team, and this wouldn’t do them any favors.
So, multiple years of a right-handed power bat, or another one year of Francisco Liriano, with an outside chance of re-signing him afterwards? This is one of the offseason potential scenarios the Neil Huntington and company will have to decide on. If you put me Huntington’s place, I’d stick with Liriano going forward, unless the Angels somehow threw more in than just Trumbo, but that seems unlikely. With the possibility of A.J. Burnett’s retirement still looming, it’d be hard to move as talented of an arm as Liriano’s on a somewhat risky and strikeout happy power bat.