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A Simulation of the Arbitration Process: Francisco Liriano

Round two of the off-season is officially underway. This is the time of year where teams and players prepare the last stage of the so-called winter; the Arbitration Process. Thus, Arbitration doesn't always call for "arbitration." A majority of the time, teams and players work out a deal for the upcoming season in order to avoid a hearing.

For both players and managements, heading in to an arbitration hearing is the equivalent of getting a root canal; it's a dreadful process. Both sides discuss everything that's wrong with the other side, thus creating tension that sometimes lasts throughout the whole season. Nevertheless, this is a simulation of the process starting off with salary exchange situation all the way to the hearing, if necessary. At the same time, Francisco Liriano will be the variable. So here's a simulation of the arbitration process:

Part I

The Collective Bargaining Agreement states the necessary discussions must be had and considered by Liriano andthe Twins. The CBA states that the following must be considered for the hearing.

1.The quality and importance of Liriano's contributions to the team and teammates over the course of the past season.

2.The past and recent performance of the Twins during Liriano's starts while taking in to account all necessary stats involving Liriano, and the aforementioned Twins.

3. Similar and comparable players and contracts of certain players.

4. Liriano's likelihood of performing to his expected ability upon earning the contract and for the duration of the deal or close to it, taking into account previous injuries unless proof can be made for his recent and future health.

The following should not be taken in to account when prioritizing the necessary contract advancements of Liriano and his side:

1. The Minnesota Twins finances; How rich or poor a team is will not be taken in to account.

2. Materialization of Liriano by Twins fans, media, management, and teammates. However, awards and other honors that Liriano has earned are considered.

Part II

Francisco Liriano set career highs in nearly every pitching statistic in 2010. His 2010 performance was ranked towards the top of every pitching category. He ranked 3rd in the league in FIP, 5th in the league in K/9, , 6th in the league in WPA/LI, and 8th in the league in pitchers fWAR. In 2010, Lirianoled the team in nearly every pitching category as well, failing to rank 1st in only three major and relevant pitching statistics. Those stats are BB/9 (3rd) and IP (2nd). After completing his first full season since 2006, Liriano won the Comeback Player of the Year award in the American League, beating out Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre who were favorites as well.

In October of '10, Liriano embarked on quite an achievement, starting Game One of the American League Division Series, pitching 5.2 solid innings against the New York Yankees while giving up four. However, the Twins were not able to score enough runs to keep Liriano in the game or even in line to earn the win, which led to an eventual loss. Liriano certainly lived up to what was expected of him in 2010. He remained a mainstay in a shaky Twins rotation. Like many other players in the game, he was considered an "All-Star snub" after not being selected to the team.

Part III

After being signed by the San Francisco Giants in 2000, Liriano was traded to the Twins in 2003 along with Boof Bonser and Joe Nathan in exchange for A.J. Pierzynski. Two years later, he made his Major League debut for the Twins. In that season, he pitched 23.2 innings while striking out 33 batters. Having only pitched 23.2 innings, he qualified for rookie status the following year. Not only did he qualify for rookie status, but he was extremely impressive in what was a strong rookie class. Liriano in 2006 posted a 2.55 FIP and a 10.71 K/9. His 2.16 ERA was emphasized by the Metrodome turf. Furthermore, Liriano then missed the entire 2007 season and much of the '08 campaign after getting Tommy John reconstructive surgery. However, for the time he was on the mound in '08, his velocity dipped (obviously) and was very shaky. The following season wasn't any different. In '09, he was arguably one of the worst pitchers in the game. Liriano had very little to do with the division winning Twins, even being left off their post-season rotation. His recovery from the surgery was a factor, however, many claim that it takes a pitcher an extra season before regaining all of his arm strength.

Part IV

Liriano's situation compares to the likes of Zack Greinke. After a 2008 campaign where Zack Greinke was worth 4.9 wins, he inked a contract paying him $38MM over four years. As well as earning his team 4.9 wins in '08, Greinke was actually worse than Liriano was in '10, putting up a 3.56 FIP along with an 8.14 K/9 as well as a 1.11 GB/FB ratio. Upon that, Greinke pitched a full season, the first time he did so since he took a temporary leave from the game due to depression difficulties. Greinke eclipsed career highs in nearly every statistic in that season as well as Liriano did so in 2010, earning himself the four-year deal.

Francisco Liriano is under contract until after the 2013 season, thus he was never a super two. Liriano first qualified for arbitration during the 2008/2009 off-season. He earned $430,000 in '09 and$1.6MM in 2010. After a very productive season, he is in line for a significant but appropriate raise. If a contract extension does not occur, Liriano will be seeking a $6.5MM salary for the 2011 season.

Edit: Keep in mind, many players are not just compared based on past seasons performances; age, service time, position, physical similarities, and potential are taken in to consideration as well.

Thanks to Mark Simon @msimonespn for the heads up!

Part V

The Twins had one of the best regular seasons in baseball in 2010. After entering their new ballpark and attracting the most fans in their history, Liriano played a huge part in helping the team get where they were. Liriano did a fantastic job of taking the mound every 5th day and doing his best to help the Twins secure a win. Many actually considered Liriano a major Cy Young candidate due to his remarkably low FIP and high strikeout total. He was easily the best pitcher in the division as well. The lefty also proved that a simple three pitch mix is often all you need to be a successful pitcher, throwing a fastball and especially a slider that was if not best, near being the #1 slider in the game (19.0 wSL). Before getting swept by the Yankees in the first round, many expected the Twins to win that series and even advance to the World Series, largely in part to their trust in Francisco Liriano.

Part VI

The aforementioned elbow injury that plagued Liriano's 2007-2009 seasons appear to be behind him. With that said, the "Verducci Effect" might be in place since Liriano pitched 191.2 innings in 2010, the most in his career by far. Liriano is 26 years old though, an age where maturity and development is known to be behind most pitchers.

Part VII

In 2010, Liriano established himself as one of the best pitchers in the game by far. His competitiveness was also unmatched. Even if he does regress from his magnificent 2010 campaign, he will presumably still be ranked as one of the top pitchers in the game. When looked at in totality, Liriano really does deserve the the raise he seeks. He pitched as well as any other pitcher in the league and Parts 1-4 suggest that he deserves every penny of the $6.5MM. Liriano's hope though is to sign a long-term deal, such as the one Greinke signed after '08.

Like many players who play and have played for the Minnesota Twins, they are extremely underrated. Liriano is no exception. However, he will not stay under the radar for long.

Simulation is complete

This is a microcosm of the potential arbitration process. Chances are Liriano and the Twins work something out prior to the potential hearing. I excluded the Twins perspective. The reason for that is because not only can you not come close to guessing what the Twins will counter with after Liriano states his case, but as I said previously, a lot of words that the sides wish weren't said, are said. However, it takes plenty of skill to be able to even know what to say in such a hearing. If any person on either side does not come prepared, chances are they lose the case.

Liriano and his agent Greg Genske have a lot of work ahead of them, but many assume the Twins will be reasonable with their young ace and work something out to prevent dueling it out in hearing.