Six weeks after the Pittsburgh Pirates originally came to terms with free agent pitcher Francisco Liriano on a guaranteed two-year, $12.75 million contract, the two sides have finally put the finishing touches on their deal.
Only now it’s a one-year contract worth just $1 million guaranteed that also includes a vesting option for 2014 and a whole bunch of incentives that could ultimately bring his earnings back up to the original $12.75 million.
What took them so long to iron things out and why is the final deal structured so significantly different from what they originally agreed to in December?
Well, that stems from the nasty fall Liriano reportedly took in his home bathroom just days after the agreement. The result of that fall was a broken humerus bone in his non-pitching arm, which put Liriano in a cast for a number of weeks and setback his offseason preparations. At that point, the Pirates put the agreement on hold with an eye toward renegotiating, and this is where the process ultimately led them.
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Again, under the reworked deal Liriano will earn only $1 million guaranteed in 2013. However, he will have the opportunity to earn back the $11.75 million in guaranteed money that he lost by reaching a number of incentives that in some cases would best be described as unique.
The terms of the contract offer the club protection in the event the fracture, of the southpaw's right humerus, renders him unavailable for an extended period. Conversely, Liriano has protection if he is fit to pitch through the injury. All of the incentives are based on time spent on the active roster.
In addition to his $1 million guarantee, Liriano can earn an additional $3.75 million in 2013 based on the number of days he is not on the disabled list due to the right arm injury.
The 2014 club option is for $8 million, but it becomes a vested option at any of three levels -- $5 million, $6 million or $8 million — based on the number of days he is not DL-ed in 2013 due to the right arm injury.
If the 2014 option does vest at $5 million or $6 million, however, Liriano would still be able to reach the $8 million with bonuses based on games started in 2014.
Incentives based on starts, appearances and games played are not unusual. Clauses specifically geared toward one particular ailment — such as a back, shoulder, knee or hip — are also pretty regular occurrences. But this might be the first time we've learned about language that's based specifically on a pitcher’s non-throwing arm. Apparently that means as injury to his pitching arm, major or otherwise, that caused him to miss games would not count again his 2013 total.
That appears to change in 2014, but a three-month DL stint for a strained elbow or two missed starts for back spasms won't keep his option from vesting.
I can safely say these are not the most unusual contract stipulations we've heard of in recent years. Far from them, in fact. Based on the circumstances of the injury, they're even understandable. They're just unique in that even though a pitcher obviously needs all of his limbs to be functional to perform at his highest level, you're never worried about his other arm breaking down or causing a problem.
Seriously. It's just not something you think about because it's not supposed to matter or impact anything. It's ridiculous. Then you reconsider Liriano's odd circumstances for a few seconds and the Pirates creative stipulations suddenly make perfect sense again.
I'm pretty sure this is one of those "only in baseball" scenarios. It has to be.
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