Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Friday, March 28, 2008

Liriano Out, Blackburn In -- For Now

I made it back home a little earlier than I anticipated, and within moments had seen the news that Francisco Liriano has been optioned to Ft. Myers. I wasn't going to blog until tomorrow, but this is a pretty big deal and I thought I should post a few thoughts.

First, I thought that the Twins would take Liriano north, and have been saying so all year. Still, I can't disagree with the decision to give him a couple of minor league starts (it sounds like one in Ft. Myers and one in Rochester). This is also great news for Nick Blackburn, who will get at least a couple of chances to prove his value to the team.

What's interesting about this move is that the Twins made the decision to option Liriano rather than placing him on the DL. However, on further review this isn't particularly strange. First, under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, an option is officially used on a player only if that player is on optional assignment for more than 20 days in a season. For Liriano, that means that if he is recalled by the Twins before the 16th of April, and doesn't get optioned again this season, he won't have used up an option year. Even if he does, however, who really cares? This would be Liriano's second option year. That would leave him with another year in which he could be optioned. Is there really any doubt, however, that once healthy Liriano is going to remain a big league player? The Twins don't need to be careful with his option years, because almost certainly he isn't going to use them.

So, the last piece of the roster puzzle seems to have fallen into place. Now, we can look forward to tomorrow's spring finale against the Pirates, and Monday night's season opener against the Angels. I can't wait!

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  • At Fri Mar 28, 07:38:00 PM , Anonymous Jeremy said...

    I agree that the Twins don't have to be careful with his option years... but I'm just curious...

    Liriano was added to the 40 man on 11/18/04. So his he spent all of the 05 season on the 40 man (option year 1), spent all of 06 on the 40 man (option year 2), spent 07 on the major league DL (no option year), so wouldn't that make 08 his 3rd, and final, option year?

    If I were in charge, I wouldn't want to use it just in case... Now, if the Twins really plan on having him up in the next 20 days, it would be moot...

    Just wondering if I have that right...

  • At Fri Mar 28, 07:46:00 PM , Blogger JST said...


    Thanks for the question. Here's the timeline that I have for Liriano. You are correct that he was added in November '04 (I have the 17th, but whether it was the 17th or 18th doesn't matter). He was optioned in 2005 for the first time, and while he pitched a little for the Twins, that was his first option year because he spent more than 20 days in the minors.

    Liriano was NOT optioned in 2006, however. Yes, he was on the 40-man roster, but he spent all season on the active 25-man roster or on the disabled list, and was not placed on "optional assignment" in the minors. As you said, he then spent all of 2007 on the 60-Day DL, which also didn't use an option year. So, this is the second season in which Liriano has been optioned, and if he spends more than 20 days this season on optional assignment, it will count as his second option year.

  • At Fri Mar 28, 07:53:00 PM , Blogger Jeremy said...

    Geez, I was thinking that he started 06 in the minors... I obviously need to rely more on research and less on (bad) memory. What are the chances that the Twins keep him on the farm for the first couple months to push his arbitration years back? 2%? 5%?

  • At Fri Mar 28, 09:31:00 PM , Blogger JST said...


    Easy mistake to make -- I had to look it up to double check my master spreadsheet and make sure I wasn't off. Liriano actually started off 2006 in the bullpen, and was finally moved into the rotation in May, if I recall correctly.

    The possibility of the Twins keeping Liriano in the minors to avoid him becoming arbitration eligible is interesting, but unlikely. Not impossible, mind you -- if Liriano doesn't pitch that well in his two minor league starts, the Twins might be cautious and leave him in the minors for awhile.

    Now, for the math: Liriano is sitting at 2 years and 8 days of service time. He likely needs 120 days of service time to become eligible as a Super-2 player. That means the Twins would need to keep him out for roughly 2 full months to prevent him from becoming arbitration eligible after this season. Leaving a player like Liriano in the minors for that long, especially at the beginning of the season when hope springs eternal, is unlikely -- unless, as I mentioned above, he performs really poorly in the minor leagues. I think your 2% figure is probably at the absolute high end of the range of possibility.

  • At Fri Mar 28, 09:36:00 PM , Blogger Jeremy said...


    This site has Liriano at 2 years, 31 days... so a little different. But either way I think, barring a setback, he'll be up with the big club by the middle of April. I hope so anyway.

  • At Fri Mar 28, 09:42:00 PM , Blogger JST said...

    Thanks for catching the error! Cot's Baseball Contracts is a great source and presumably correct. I must have mis-added at some point last season (very possible when you try to keep track by yourself!). That, of course, changes the calculus a bit -- the Twins would have to keep him out for nearly 3 full months instead of 2 in order to keep him from becoming a Super-2. That's very, very unlikely.

  • At Fri Mar 28, 10:13:00 PM , Blogger Jeremy said...

    Last thing and I'll leave you alone (until I have another question)... I'm trying to set up a spreadsheet as well and I have a few things...

    Twins in arbitration:
    Kubel and Guerrier (2nd year)
    Liriano (1st year)

    Is that what you have?

    3 options left: Macri, Korecky, Tolbert
    2 options left: Neshek, Gomez, Slowey, Blackburn, Barrett, Buschner, DePaula, Morales, Span, Sosa, Liriano
    1 option left: Perkins, Casilla, Humber, Mijares

    That leaves me with the three former Rays: Young (doesn't matter), Harris and Pridie that I can't find.

    Do you see any glaring errors there?

    Thanks for your help.

  • At Sat Mar 29, 01:19:00 PM , Blogger JST said...


    Here's what I have:

    Arbitration eligible at the end of the season -- Guerrier and Kubel for sure (both are already over 3 years of service time), Liriano more than likely (as discussed yesterday), and there's a possibility that Baker will get there as well (his max service time at the end of the year would be 2.128 -- 2 years and 128 days -- which is the lowest spot where the Super-2 line can fall).

    Options: Blackburn and Tolbert have never been optioned, so they each have 3 left.

    Neshek, Slowey, and Gomez have each been optioned once previously and so have 2 left.

    Korecky, Morales, Buscher, Macri, and Jason Pridie were each optioned this spring for the first time, so once they get to 20 days of minor league time this season, it will count as their first option year.

    Bonser and Kubel have each been optioned previously and have one option left.

    DePaula, Liriano, Perkins, Sosa, Casilla, and Span were each optioned this spring for the second time.

    Humber and Mijares were each optioned this spring for the final time, so this is their last available option year.

    Baker, Bass, Guerrier, Brendan Harris, and Delmon Young were out of options entering this season.

    Finally, you have Ricky Barrett on your list, but he was removed from the 40-man roster and so did not use an option this year when he was cut from camp.

    Hope this helps!

  • At Sat Mar 29, 08:30:00 PM , Blogger Jeremy said...


    Let me prefact this by saying, "maybe I'm just an idiot.." but I'm more confused now than ever.

    How is it that Blackburn has never been optioned? And how is this Buscher's first option year?

    I'm assuming my understanding of these rules are just off... Does the clock not start ticking when they're added to the 40 man?


  • At Sat Mar 29, 11:44:00 PM , Blogger JST said...


    Let me try to clear it up for you. Once a player has been added to the 40-man roster, that player has three available "option years" (or in some rare instances, 4 -- but that's complicated and rarely applies, so I'm not going to go into it here). An option is used when a player is assigned to the minor leagues on "optional assignment," rather than kept on the active 25-man roster.

    So, let's look at Buscher and Blackburn as examples. First, Buscher. The Twins purchased Buscher's contract from Rochester in late July last year. That officially added him to the 40-man roster. Buscher remained on the team's active roster for the remainder of the season (with the exception of a stint on the 15-day DL), and so he was never placed on "optional assignment" in 2007 -- the time that he spent in the minor leagues last year was BEFORE he was added to the 40-man roster, and so did not involve an option. No player can be on optional assignment during the off-season, either, so he was officially "active" all winter. That means that the first time Buscher was placed on optional assignment was this spring, and once he reaches the 20-day mark in the minors this season, this will be his first option year.

    Now, for Blackburn. The Twins selected Blackburn's contract from Rochester in September of last season, and that officially added him to the 40-man roster. As with Buscher, the time that Blackburn spent in the minors in 2007 was BEFORE he was on the 40-man roster, and so did not involve an option. As a result, Blackburn has not yet been optioned in his career -- although more than likely he will be in two weeks or so when Liriano is added to the team.

    Hope this helps, and let me know if you have any other questions on this stuff.

  • At Sun Mar 30, 07:00:00 AM , Blogger Jeremy said...

    lThanks. That makes sense. I couldn't find when Blackburn was added to the 40 man. So would he have been available in the Rule V draft after his fourth year in the organization? If I have this right, he was signed at 20 years old, so the Twins had 4 years. So he was available, and undrafted, in the Rule V draft in November of 05 and 06?

  • At Sun Mar 30, 09:28:00 AM , Blogger JST said...


    Essentially you're right about Blackburn's Rule 5 eligibility. Things are complicated slightly by the fact that the rules were changed the last time the Collective Bargaining Agreement was renegotiated, which extended the time you could keep a player before they became Rule 5 eligible by one year. The rule is now as you say it is: a player originally signed when 18 or younger is eligible in the fifth Rule 5 Draft after being signed, while a player originally signed at 19 or older is eligible to be drafted in the fourth Rule 5 Draft after being signed.

    Back when Blackburn was drafted by the Twins, in 2001, there was one fewer year available in each category; therefore, since he was 20 when he signed in May of '02, he was eligible in the third draft after he signed. The first was in December '02, then in '03, then in '04. So, yes, as you said Blackburn was eligible to be drafted in '05 and '06.

    Last year was the first year that he reached a level where he could reasonably be expected to survive at the Major League level, making him a risk to be taken for the first time in last year's draft. If Blackburn hadn't been added in September, he almost certainly would have been added in November to protect him from the draft.

  • At Sun Mar 30, 10:56:00 AM , Blogger Jeremy said...

    Very nice. You're very knowledgable with this stuff. I've been trying to read up on it and it seems like when there is a rule (i.e. 3 option years), there is always an "unless" (unless you're Philip Humber).

    You should probably give Bill Smith your email, because sometimes I think he needs some help.

    Thanks again!


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