The Star Tribune’s Joe Christensen touched off waves of panic all over the Twins’ twitterverse and blogoverse when he reported that the Twins are interested in trading Francisco Liriano. Of course, nowhere in the article does it say the Twins are actively shopping the lefty, only that they are willing to listen to offers. I am actually not opposed to dealing Liriano. He had a fantastic 2010 campaign, much better than his 3.62 ERA would indicate, but he hasn’t been very durable since his major-league debut in 2006 and he has a history of arm problems going back to his time in the minors. The old maxim in baseball that it is much better to trade a player one season too early than a season too late certainly applies in this case, and if Liriano doesn’t figure in the Twins’ long-term plans, then it makes a lot of sense to try to trade him when his value is at its peak. It’s hard to tell exactly how much trade value F-Bomb actually has, but a deal including a shortstop and a power arm or two would simply be too good to pass up.
However, if the Twins feel they can contend this year, they will need Liriano to pitch them deep into the postseason. The rotation behind F-bomb is less than impressive: a 35 year-old Carl Pavano who has had health problems of his own, the talented but homer-prone Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey, and a couple of extreme contact pitchers: Nick Blackburn (88.3%) and Brian Duensing (90.2%). Luckily, the Twins have another potentially tradeable asset on their roster: Delmon Young.
Like Liriano, it is clear that Young doesn’t fit into the Twins’ future plans. They haven’t expressed much interest in signing the 25 year-old to a multi-year deal, which is perfectly understandable given his relatively disappointing performance up until last year. Delmon had a breakout 2010 season, batting .298/.333/.493/.826 with a career high .195 ISO and .352 wOBA, providing some much-needed right-handed power to a lefty-heavy lineup. However, he still hasn’t demonstrated much patience at the plate, with a 0.35 BB/K ratio, so it’s hard to say whether he will repeat these numbers. Since there is no shortage of outfield prospects waiting in the minor leagues, most of whom project to be better hitters and better defenders than Young, the Twins have little incentive to find out.
Guaging his trade value is a bit tricky, though. It is no secret that Young is one of the worst defensive outfielders in the league, and if he can’t hit, he has very little value. Between 2007 and 2009, Young was worth a combined -0.8 fWAR (-1.8 rWAR), only breaking the replacement-level mark when his bat came alive in 2010, at 2.1 fWAR (0.8 rWAR). The Twins unsuccessfully shopped Young before and found that there is little market for a corner outfielder with all the power of a center fielder and the speed and defensive prowess of a DH. However, most corner outfielders are defensively-challenged, so most front offices don’t place a priorty on defense at the position. Young is just entering his prime, so it isn’t unreasonable to think that he is finally reaching some of the enormous potential he displayed as the first overall pick in the 2003 draft. And while he will make at least $6 million in arbitration through 2012, he should still be a lot cheaper than most free agent outfielders. Johnny Damon, Vladimir Guerrero, and Jayson Werth all signed for more money than Young will likely earn this season, while Young should at least equal their production. The Twins probably won’t get any top prospects or major-league ready players for Young, but it would be worth shopping him to see what they could get.