Mets fans have an appreciation for young starting pitching. After all, it is the stockpile of young arms in the Mets' system that has so many analysts putting the Mets right into the playoff mix this upcoming season. Among those pitchers is Jacob deGrom, who won the 2014 National League Rookie of the Year award, going 9-6 with an impressive 2.69 ERA and 2.67 FIP, striking out 144 batters over 140 innings pitched.
Back in 2006, Francisco Liriano’s rookie season was even better than deGrom’s 2014 was, as Liriano went 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA, striking out 144 batters in only 121 innings pitched. However, Liriano only finished third in the 2006 American League Rookie of the Year award voting, with Justin Verlander winning it and Jonathan Papelbon finishing runner up. Liriano eventually needed Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2007 season.
It wasn’t until 2010 that Liriano started to once again show flashes of his rookie-season dominance, finishing 14-10 with 201 strikeouts in 192 innings, winning the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award in the process. However, 2011 and 2012 were not the best years for Liriano, who finished with an ERA over 5 each season. The Twins finally traded away their once-promising star to the Chicago White Sox for infielder Eduardo Escobar and lefty Pedro Hernandez. Things only continued to spiral downwards for Liriano in Chicago, as he was removed from their rotation and demoted to the bullpen in September of 2012.
The story gets better for Liriano from here, though. In February 2013, Liriano signed a two-year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He started the 2013 season in a very familiar place: on the disabled list. However, he finished the season with a 16-8 record, striking out 163 in 161 innings with a 3.02 ERA. Liriano won the Comeback Player of the Year award once again, becoming the first player to win the award twice. He also started the Pirates' first postseason game in 21 years, pitching seven dominating innings while striking out five to beat the Cincinnati Reds and lead his team to the NL Division Series.
2014 was an up-and-down season for Liriano. He started the year 1-7 with a 4.72 ERA in his first 15 starts, spending most of June on the disabled list. He finished the season going 7-10, with 175 Ks in 162 IP and a respectable 3.38 ERA.
As you can surely gather, Liriano has spent a lot of time on the disabled list since he burst onto the scene in September 2005. When he's been on the field, his main issue has been inconsistency. He still had a dominating 9.7 K/9 last year, but his 4.49 BB/9 is disconcerting. Liriano was tendered a one-year $15.3 million qualifying offer from the Pirates for next season, but he surprisingly rejected it. He will turn 31 in 2015, and since the Pirates made him a qualifying offer, whichever teams ends up signing him will have to surrender a draft pick, like the Mets had to do after signing Michael Cuddyer.
While the Mets could sign another player who was made a qualifying offer, and forfeit their second-round pick next year in the process, that player almost certainly won't be Liriano, who should receive a multi-year offer from many teams not based in Queens.