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Leveraging Liriano

The last time I had the opportunity to write in this space, I was calling out a contract extension for Francisco Liriano as a top impending priority for the Twins. Six months later, nothing has changed.

Following that early August post, Liriano finished up his outstanding 2010 campaign, earning both a Game 1 postseason nod and AL Comeback Player of the Year honors. His core numbers -- a 14-10 record and 3.62 ERA -- aren't fully reflective of his dominance.

The southpaw ranked second among AL pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings, and sixth in ground ball percentage. In 191 2/3 innings, he allowed only nine home runs -- five of them in the final two weeks of the season, when he appeared to wear down a bit. It seems safe to say that the former rookie phenom has returned to form.

Liriano is still only 27, and having missed a year due to Tommy John surgery his arm is 26 (in terms of MLB service, anyway). Right now, coming off a season in which his ERA and win/loss record were decidedly ordinary, seems like the perfect time to strike a multiyear deal at a bargain. Should Liriano put together the kind of season his peripheral numbers -- and nasty stuff -- suggest he's capable of, waiting a year could cost the Twins dearly.

A three or four-year contract makes plenty of sense for both sides. The Twins lock up the only pitcher in the organization with true ace potential at a reasonable price, while Liriano -- still arbitration eligible through 2012 -- gets some insurance for his surgically repaired and sometimes fickle left arm.

Unfortunately, it sounds as though general manager Bill Smith has his sights set on a one-year deal for Liriano.

-- Nick Nelson writes Nick’s Twins blog, a blog about the Minnesota Twins.