Wait, is it 2013 again?
Remember, when PNC Park was bumping, the crowd was going nuts and Johnny Cueto dropped the ball? Do you remember the guy opposite of Cueto who threw 7-innings of 4-hit ball and delivered the first Pirates playoff victory since Game 6 of the 1992 NLCS?
Well, on Monday, the Pittsburgh Pirates brought an older version of that guy back when they signed 35-year-old left-hander Francisco Liriano to a minor-league deal that has effectively taken us back in time to when he was a key hurler in Pittsburgh’s three-straight playoff appearances.
During that 2013 run, the Pirates went 94-68, finished second in the NL Central, beat the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Wild Card game, and essentially had all of Pittsburgh blacked out before first pitch.
Liriano led the pitching staff that year in wins (16), ERA (3.02), and winning percentage (.667). Although he went on to have a down year, record wise, in 2014, he still helped the Pirates earn a wild card berth, and held a sub-4 ERA. Then, in 2015, he wins 12 games and throws 186 winning before the Pirates lose in the NL Wild Card game for the second straight year.
Since that time, Liriano has bounced around somewhat. He pitched for the Blue Jays and the Pirates in 2016. Picked up a ring with the Astros in 2017, and then spent all of last season with the Tigers, accumulating a 4.58 ERA, in 133.2 innings, while winning 5 games and losing 12.
Needless to say, Liriano is probably past his prime, but what can hurt from taking a flyer on a 35-year-old southpaw who was in Pittsburgh during the most exciting time of the past 20 years. If he makes the major league roster at some point during the season, his contract will only be worth $1.8 million.
The pitching staff is currently slotted with a bunch of young arms who have the potential to be great. Now, throw a guy like Franky into the mix who has been in pennant races and has thrown in the big games and that’s a recipe for success. Guys like Chris Archer, Trevor Williams, Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham and Joe Musgrove can learn from Franky.
Now, all he has to do is make the major league roster.