The Phillies, after two straight offseasons of committing significant financial resources to their bullpen, added another low-cost veteran reliever on Wednesday by taking a flier on Francisco Liriano.
The contract, first reported by baseball reporter Robert Murray, gives Liriano a minor-league deal with an invitation to major-league spring training. The 36-year-old left-hander had a 3.47 ERA last season in 69 appearances for the Pirates and was used as a full-time reliever for the first time in his 14-year career after latching on with a similar minor-league deal.
Liriano struck out 63 and walked 35 in 70 innings. He benefited from a slight uptick in velocity after spending the previous season in Detroit’s starting rotation.
He will join fellow veterans Bud Norris and Drew Storen next month in Clearwater, Fla., as the two signed minor-league deals Tuesday. Norris and Storen did not pitch last season in the majors. The Phillies spent $57 million before the 2018 and 2019 seasons to sign Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, and David Robertson as they put an emphasis on the late innings.
But the three combined last season for just 30 innings. Hunter and Neshek are free agents, and Robertson is expected to miss the 2020 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Phillies, now pressing against the luxury tax, altered their approach this winter and are trying to finish building their bullpen with low-cost veterans and young arms from the minor leagues.
The Phillies will carry eight relievers this season, and left-handers Adam Morgan and Jose Alvarez enter camp seeming assured of bullpen roles. Morgan missed the final two months of last season with a flexor strain but is expected to be ready for camp, and Alvarez quietly had the second-best ERA among Phillies relievers. Liriano, if he has a good showing in spring training, would give Joe Girardi a third left-handed option.