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Francisco Liriano has reportedly found a home with the Detroit Tigers in 2018.
On Friday, Robert Murray of FanRag Sports reported Liriano is signing a one-year deal with the Tigers worth $4 million, with $1 million in incentives.
The left-hander began last season with the Toronto Blue Jays. Not only were the Blue Jays slipping out of playoff contention midway through the 2017 campaign, but Liriano was also 6-5 with a 5.88 ERA in 18 starts for Toronto through July. It made little sense to keep a struggling pitcher who was in the final year of his contract.
The Houston Astros acquired him at the non-waiver trade deadline July 31 for Nori Aoki and Teoscar Hernandez. The Astros then moved Liriano to the bullpen. He didn’t make a seamless adjustment to a relief role. Although he had a 4.40 ERA in 20 appearances for Houston, he averaged 6.9 strikeouts to 6.3 walks per nine innings.
“The first couple games I was just trying to let it out, get loose quick and give everything I had from the first pitch in the bullpen—and then trying to come in and do the same thing,” Liriano said in August of the change, per the Houston Chronicle‘s Hunter Atkins. “I have to find the in-between: not too excited, not too low. Get a good rhythm with my mechanics.”
He found a comfort zone toward the end of the regular season. In 10 appearances in September, he allowed one earned run and struck out seven batters.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch included Liriano on his American League Division Series roster, which spoke to how effective he was on the mound in the final month.
Hinch discussed the 34-year-old with the Chronicle‘s Jake Kaplan:
“I think conviction goes a long way. He’s really attacking hitters over the plate, which is a good sign. He’s got power pitches. Both his fastball and his slider are power pitches. He’s mixed in a couple changeups when the righties have come up or we’ve turned around a switch-hitter. But he believes he can get guys out over the plate.”
Becoming a lefty specialist in Houston may prove a blessing in disguise for Liriano if he’s willing to continue embracing the role in Detroit. Wade Davis is the best example of how beneficial the transition from the rotation to the bullpen can be.
If he wants to remain a starter, then Liriano could be a nice innings-eater at the back end of the rotation. Between 2009 and 2016, he averaged 161.5 innings per season, and that kind of consistency would make him useful.
The Tigers are finally starting to rebuild their roster after trading Justin Verlander and Justin Upton last season. Liriano is a low-cost veteran who can slot into their rotation as they wait for their next wave of prospects to bring them back to prominence in the American League Central.