Liriano deal nearly done


I’ll be the first to admit I thought LHP Francisco Liriano would be too costly for the Pirates to make a serious run at signing him. But, as LaVelle Neal III of the Minnesapolis Star-Tribune first reported, the Pirates are set to sign Liriano to a two-year, $14 million contract. The deal is pending a physical, which a source tells me likely will happen soon after Christmas.

Liriano, 29, made $5.5 million in 2012 with Twins and White Sox, and went 6-12 with 5.34 ERA and 1.468 WHIP in 34 games (28 starts). He’ll join a rotation that already includes A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonald. At this point, it seems likely either Kyle McPherson or Jeff Locke will hold down the No. 5 spot until Gerrit Cole is ready. Potentially, that’s a solid rotation. A pricety one, too — Burnett will make $16.5 million (of which the Pirates will pay $8 million), Wandy will get $13 million (of which the Pirates will pay $8 million) and J-Mac (arby eligible) will likely get around $3 million. Locke and McPherson will make the $500,000 major league minimum. That means about $26.5 million of the Pirates’ projected (by Frank Coonelly) $70 million 40-man payroll will go to the starting rotation.

What does it mean for the rest of the pitching staff? It provides a safety net in case Charlie Morton (who probably won’t be back until July if all goes well) has an unexpected setback during his rehab from elbow surgery. It strengthens the case (at least from a financial standpoint) in favor of trading closer Joel Hanrahan (who’s expected to get around $7 million if he goes through arbitration). It also might mean the Pirates realized they weren’t going to get a solid major league pitcher in a swap for Hanrahan and/or they prefer to deepen their talent pool by dealing him for prospects (a sensible move in an offseason in which several blue-chip prospects already have been dealt).

»»» Former Pirates 1B Casey McGehee will play next season in Japan for the Rakuten Eagles. McGehee will get $1.3 million in base salary, with incentives that could boost the value to $2 million. He made $2.5375 this past season with the Pirates and Yankees.

»»» If I don’t post again before Tuesday, I’d like to wish all of y’nz a blessed Christmas (and/or any other holiday you celebrate) and a peaceful New Year.