Ron Gardenhire says Twins “talking about our options” with struggling Francisco Liriano

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Ron Gardenhire indicated today that Francisco Liriano could be in danger of losing his spot in the Twins’ rotation after going 1-4 with a 9.13 ERA through five outings, telling Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com that “we’ve been talking about our options with him.”

Kevin Slowey moved from the rotation to the bullpen because the Twins had six starters for five spots and is now on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, but his rehab assignment involves building up his pitch count in case he’s tabbed to replace Liriano.

Asked about Liriano’s confidence, Gardenhire noted that “it hasn’t been good” and added “that’s kind of why we’re working on Slowey … in case we have to decide after his next start whether we’re going to do something.”

Liriano was fantastic last season, posting a 3.62 ERA with 201 strikeouts in 192 innings while his secondary numbers suggested he’d have been even better if not for some shaky defense and/or back luck behind him. Instead of progressing into a clear-cut ace this season Liriano has taken several steps backwards with his command and velocity while failing to make it past the fifth inning in four of five starts.

His struggles come after the Twins questioned his offseason conditioning and trade rumors briefly swirled following reports that they had no interest in signing Liriano to a long-term contract extension, which certainly looks like a wise decision right now. He’s gone from ace in the making to possibly getting bumped from the rotation. It’s unclear if Minnesota’s “options” with Liriano would involve a trip to the DL or a move to the bullpen, but the Twins seemed frustrated with the 27-year-old left-hander even when he was thriving.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.