Francisco Liriano, Melky Cabrera Make Pittsburgh Pirates Opening Day Roster


After signing a minor league contracts with the club in February, veteran lefty Francisco Liriano and outfielder Melky Cabrera have each earned a spot on the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Opening Day roster

On Saturday, the Pittsburgh Pirates announced their latest roster moves as they work toward setting their 25-man roster for Opening Day. Veteran left-handed pitcher, and former Pirate staff ace, Francisco Liriano will make the Opening Day roster as a member of the team’s bullpen and outfielder Melky Cabrera will make the team as a bench bat.

Liriano signed a minor league contract with the Pirates in February. Originally, this contract included an opt out date of March 20th. However, the Pirates asked Liriano to push this date back a few days and the veteran obliged.

After pushing the date back, the new opt out became noon on March 23rd. However, this became a moot point with Liriano earning a spot in the Pirate bullpen.

This season, Liriano will have a base salary of $1.8 million. This includes a $100,000 retention bonus he will receive today for making the Opening Day roster. He can also earn an additional $1.5 million in incentives.

For the most part, this spring has been a successful one for Liriano. He had one disastrous outing against the Yankees in which he faced four batters, walked each of them, and three of them came around to score. Outside of this game, Liriano allowed just two runs on seven hits, five walks, and eight strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings of work this spring.

In the regular season Liriano could serve a few different roles in the Pirate bullpen. Pitching in middle relief, Liriano could be used as a lefty specialist by manager Clint Hurdle. He could also give the Pirates multiple innings of relief if need be.

As for Cabrera, the veteran switch-hitter has been one of the team’s best hitters this spring. This comes as no surprise. While his defensive skills have deteriorated in recent years, Cabrera has still slashed .289/.334/.435 with a 106 wRC+ the past three seasons.

Cabrera has slashed .310/.341/.381 in 42 plate appearances this spring. He can earn up to $2 million in performance based incentives this season. Cabrera and Colin Moran, who was one of the best pinch hitter in baseball last year, should give the Pirates a lethal pinch hitting duo this season.

Since they were signed as a minor league free agents neither Liriano not Cabrera are on the team’s 40-man roster. Due to this, they will need to clear two spots on the 40-man roster. One of these moves will be moving Edgar Santana to the 60-day injured list as he recovers from Tommy John Surgery. As for the other, pitcher Jake Barrett and infielder/outfielder Jose Osuna are candidates to be designated for assignment.

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With Liriano officially being named a member of the Opening Day roster, five of the seven spots in the team’s bullpen are now set. Liriano will join Felipe Vazquez, Keone Kela, Kyle Crick, and Richard Rodriguez in the team’s bullpen. Right-handed pitchers Nick Burdi and Nick Kingham appear to be safe bets to earn the two remaining bullpen spots.

As for the bench, Jacob Stallings and Moran are locks to join Cabrera. Osuna, JB Shuck, Kevin Newman, Pablo Reyes, and Patrick Kivlehan remain in competition for the final two bench spots. Newman and Reyes appear to be the favorites for these two spots.