Chicago Cubs Rumors: A struggling Francisco Liriano could be a bargain

BOSTON, MA - JULY 20: Francisco Liriano
BOSTON, MA - JULY 20: Francisco Liriano /

With all the talk about the Chicago Cubs and the “big” targets in Sonny Gray, Justin Verlander or Chris Archer–it may be time to change the focus. If the Cubs opt for bullpen help, the Blue Jays’ Francisco Liriano might be an inexpensive find.

I know. You’re tired of all the talk about the Chicago Cubs and what they MIGHT do. Well, this is what WE do. We delve into potential deals the Cubs could make. Some believable, others rooted in fantasy (Chris Archer). With the Cubs playing better baseball in the second half, the focus might now switch to more cost effective candidates over the ones that would empty out the farm system (or worse). One name that the Cubs have inquired about is that of veteran pitcher Francisco Liriano.

FanRag’s Robert Murray has reported that outside of the Kansas City Royals, the Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and Minnesota Twins have all done their due diligence. Fox reporter Ken Rosenthal has also confirmed the Cubs have considered the veteran lefty, but more likely as bullpen help than a starter.

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After heading over to Toronto last season at the deadline, Liriano put together a solid effort for the Jays in the regular season. He finished 2-2 with a 2.92 ERA in 10 games (8 GS). With a FIP of 3.98, his improved walk rate was the difference from his time in Pittsburgh where he had walked almost 5.5 per 9 IP.

This season, the strikeouts are down (9.5 to 8.2) while the walks are up (2.9 to 4.9) from his time in Toronto. He picked up the win in relief against the Orioles in the Wild Card but saw the mound only once more in a less than stellar outing against the Rangers (1/3 IP, 2 R, 2 H, BB).

The Blue Jays are eight games out in the division, seven in the Wild Card. Even if they can get no more than a low-level prospect for a pitcher with a career 4.14 ERA? They’ll take it.

How would he fit in Chicago?

With the starting rotation clicking on all cylinders, Liriano would likely be moved to the bullpen. But who would you move to make room? The Cubs already have two lefties in Brian Duensing and Mike Montgomery in the pen. The logical move would be to send down Justin Grimm, who finally had a decent performance in Friday’s game against the Brewers. Could the Cubs make use of three left handers in the pen?

If anyone could, it would be Joe Maddon. But the concern is his walk rate is up this season. If there’s been an Achilles Heel to the bullpen, it’s been a number of walks issued. They’ve allowed 158, tied for fourth for relievers in the NL. Would adding a player like Liriano that has a strong strikeout rate but an elevated walk rate be a prudent addition?

The Verdict

The Cubs are just kicking the tires on possibilities, and unless they can get Liriano for essentially nothing? This isn’t a deal that will happen. It is possible the Jays will take what they can get and move him. But this is a deal where if the Cubs didn’t see it working out, they’d release him and deal with the loss of a prospect. The improved play might be enough for the Cubs to back off another blockbuster. But still have a move or two left in their pocket.