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Twins would be conceding AL Central if they trade ace Liriano

Big League Stew

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This business of the Minnesota Twins shopping left-hander Francisco Liriano(notes) certainly fits their organization's profile for the past 50 years.

Liriano is a free agent after the 2012 season, which means it's not too early for the Twins to trade him so they don't have to pay him. It's like, even a step or two ahead, of what they did with Johan Santana(notes) a few years back.

If you thought the days of the Twins going cheap were over simply because their ballpark is a cash cow and they gave Joe Mauer(notes) all that money, well, you were wrong. (Apparently Mauer got all the money.)

Liriano is — by a wide margin — the Twins' best pitcher. Not only does he have an ace's stuff, he actually pitched like an ace in 2010 at age 26. Further, he was one of the two or three best pitchers in the AL.

The Twins treat him like potential that never will be realized. Sometimes, he gives them reason. But there's no sense risking dollars on that, in Minnesota's view.

Well, if the Twins trade Liriano for something like what has been rumored, then we'll know for sure about their plan for 2011: They are giving up on winning the AL Central this season.

Look at the other evidence:

• They let go of free-agent relievers Brian Fuentes(notes), Jesse Crain(notes) and Matt Guerrier(notes), signed no serious replacements and will instead rely on Matt Capps(notes), along with a returning-from-serious-injury Joe Nathan(notes), and kids.

• They practically dared Jim Thome(notes) to leave for the Texas Rangers, but lucked out because of the good graces that allowed him to leave money on the table in Arlington. Jimmers! The Twins used this tactic, despite plenty of uncertainty about the ability of slugger Justin Morneau(notes) to get on the field.

• They declined the option on the last remaining Piranha — utilityman and lucky medallion Nick Punto(notes). Nick Punto, of all people, was deemed too expensive! Good-bye, horseshoe.

• They traded starting arbitration-eligible shortstop J.J. Hardy(notes) and are planning on using Alexi Casilla(notes) there, when he can't really play second base.

Has Carl Pohlad come back to life to make these decisions?

Liriano doesn't figure to fetch as much in trade as the Kansas City Royals got for Zack Greinke(notes), though maybe the Twins could get more than the Toronto Blue Jays got for Shaun Marcum(notes). A package of mediocre maybes, just like the Santana deal.

And how awesome would it be (sarcasm) if the Twins traded Liriano to the New York Yankees? Just what the rest of the league needs after an offseason of discontent for Bronx GM Brian Cashman.

Not only would the Twins be conceding to the White Sox and Tigers, they'd be helping the Yanks get closer to trophy No. 28.

The Twins in '10 won the AL Central for the sixth time this century and certainly could do it again this season.

If only the front office hadn't given up already.

Follow Dave on Twitter — @AnswerDave

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