Here’s a sentence that would have sounded pretty crazy back in spring training: Francisco Liriano is lined up to start the Wild Card play-in game for the Pirates.
Even crazier is that the Pirates may not need him to do that if they win the NL Central, but if Pittsburgh plays in the Wild Card playoff game Liriano would likely get the call, manager Clint Hurdle told Jenn Menendez of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:
It’s an option that we’ve talked about. I think the way it lines up right now, if there were no changes, Liriano would be able to pitch a play-in game or the first wild-card game which isn’t a bad option to have if that’s where you end up going.
Liriano is 16-7 with a 2.92 ERA and 148 strikeouts in 148 innings and it’s also worth noting that he’s been historically dominant versus left-handed hitters this season, which would be a nice fit if the Pirates end up facing a Reds lineup that revolves around lefties Joey Votto, Shin-Soo Choo, and Jay Bruce.
Liriano has one career playoff start, back in 2010 against the Yankees in the ALDS. It was at Target Field in Minnesota and I was there and it was sad. But if the Pirates are going to put their season in the hands of one pitcher Liriano is a pretty easy pick.
Barring physicals and roster reshuffling, the Yankees and Reds are all but ready to finalize a deal involving right-hander Sonny Gray, Fancred’s Jon Heyman reported Saturday. The exact return has not been confirmed, but Heyman hears that the Yankees will receive top infield prospect Shed Long and a draft pick in exchange for Gray, with an as-yet unnamed third player possibly involved as well.
According to several reports earlier in the day, negotiations came down to the wire as the Yankees first had their eye on the Reds’ no. 6 prospect, 22-year-old catcher Tyler Stephenson. The Reds ultimately elected to hang on to Stephenson and send Long to New York, as they currently have a greater need for catching depth and weren’t expected to be able to provide a full-time role for the infielder in 2019. Long, 23, is ranked seventh in the Reds’ system and appears to be nearing his MLB debut after batting .261/.353/.412 with 12 homers and a .765 OPS across 522 PA at Double-A Pensacola last year.
Gray figures to step into a prominent role within the Reds’ rotation, which is likely to be a mix of recently-acquired left-hander Alex Wood and right-handers Tanner Roark, Luis Castillo, Anthony DeSclafani, and Tyler Mahle, among several others. Despite Gray’s struggle to remain productive on the mound — he’s three years removed from his only All-Star campaign and turned in a disappointing 4.90 ERA and 2.16 SO/BB rate in 2018 — he might yet help stabilize a team that trotted out the fifth-worst rotation in the majors last season. If, on the other hand, the veteran righty finds the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ball Park a little too unforgiving this year, the Reds can take some comfort in the fact that he’s due to enter free agency in 2020.