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Photo Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Francisco Liriano Goes to Houston For Nori Aoki and Teoscar Hernandez

So this is turning into an interesting little deal. The details are still filtering out, but right now what we know is that the Blue Jays have traded Francisco Liriano to the Astros for 35-year-old outfielder Nori Aoki, plus a minor leaguer.

Why is that interesting? Because Aoki makes $5.5 million this season (about $1.8 million remains on the deal), and will be arbitration eligible in 2018. He’s far more likely a non-tender candidate than an actual candidate to play for the Jays next season, but Aoki has a chance (assuming he’s not immediately D’d FA) to play a little down the stretch for the Jays and maybe opens some eyes. He gives them a little bit of insurance for an outfield that will be in flux — and maybe he even gets tendered, with an eye to giving him a DFA in the spring and only paying one sixth of what his deal is. He has a .350 career on-base in the big leagues (he only arrived from Japan in 2012), and before this season was a perfectly slightly-below-average-ish player.

This year, however, he’s been merely replacement level, as his wRC+ has sunk to 87, and his defence has never really graded out well.

What’s more important about this is taking on that financial commitment. Aoki’s money balances out some of Liriano’s money going to Houston, so the Jays are indeed using some of their financial muscle here. Hopefully they’ll accommodate the Astros even more eating a bunch of money on Liriano’s contract, too — thus receiving a better “minor leaguer” in the deal.

There’s also this:

More importantly…

We now know the name of the prospect coming along with Aoki, and — holy piss — it’s a pretty decent one!

All of the main sites seem to have Hernandez as being a top 10 prospect in the Astros’ system (Baseball America ranked him eighth on their recent mid-season top 10), and we also have this:

Yep, Hernandez was in the big leagues already. In fact, he took 112 plate appearances in the majors last year, putting up a 93 wRC+. He was basically replacement level, but obviously the Jays see potential for more from the 24-year-old. This year he has slashed .279/.369/.485 in Fresno, and while there may be a little bit of PCL inflation to that, we don’t seem to quite worry about that stuff the way we used to (it’s really more about specific parks).

Hard not to like this trade for a team that will need a replacement for at least one corner outfielder next season — and especially the bit about him being able to play a little bit of centre in a pinch, albeit not very well. Gives them another nice young option in the mix — and a cheap one at that.

Not bad, Jays. Not bad at all.

  • AD

    Would it been that hard for shapkins to insist on packaging smith and lirano and actually getting something good? Hou could use joe smith too. This is a pretty meh return unless the ptbnl turns out to be a good prospect which i doubt. And jays arent really flexing much financial heft if they arent paying any of liriano’s salary.

    • The Humungus

      Where does it say PTBNL anywhere? Or that they’re not paying any of Liriano’s salary?

      I mean, I know it’s the internet and all, but you could try, oh, I don’t know, waiting for the whole story before criticizing Blue Jays management. Radical thought, I know, but it would spare your from looking like a dope in an undeletable comment (albeit one posted anonymously) if your assumptions prove to be untrue.

  • Will Murray

    This is fine. They got a guy they liked and use their financial strength to make it happen. Who knows if he’ll turn into anything, but certainly better than just taking a warm body or cash. Francisco Liriano was on a playoff team here, so after that 22 year wait, I say build a statue next to the one of Ted for him and everyone else on those teams.

  • The Humungus

    That tweet from Canucks/Jays says it all.

    They used money and Hutchison to get three prospects and Nori Aoki (who could still be flipped as a bench bat). Hutch is looking like an org guy at this point (he’s been in AAA all year for the Pirates, with middling results). This is how smart teams with money operate.

  • CashGameND

    Hey Andrew. Trying to figure out how to gauge what a good major league hitter is. I looked over the season total average for obp and ops over the last while, and came to a conclusion a 320obp and 710ops is basically a league average batter. What numbers would you look for? I see Aoki having a down season for ops, but his obp is still very strong and his previous 5 seasons being well above average in obp & above avg ops.

    Not a criticism, actually just trying to learn

    • spiggy

      It’s not perfect, but OPS+ is a decent quick-glance stat. 100 is exactly average. Aoki’s OPS+ this year is 94, which means he’s been 6% less productive than the average this year. For comparison, Justin Smoak has a 151 OPS+, so he’s been 51% more productive at the plate than the MLB average this year. Worth noting: OPS+ is context dependant, which means that it compares players against everyone else in the league for that particular year. In 1916 Horus Wagner has an OPS+ of 121, but he only slugged .370. Basically, the league had no power that year, so he was good in comparison with everyone else. Eighty years later Carlos Delgado slugged .490 and had an OPS+ of 112, because in the ’90s everyone was jaaaaccckkkkeedddd.

      • CashGameND

        @spiggy thanks. so 6% less then league average production still isn’t that bad I’d say, and its a lefty bat with good OBP. And this is his worst year of his 6 year career, likely the only year hes been below league average, and only slightly below…. So why is it so automatic he’d be non-tendered next year, could be a decent leadoff guy, or worst solid bottom of the order bat, and is a lefty with high obp something we could use

        • The Humungus

          He’s a non-tender candidate because at $5.5M this year, you don’t want to go to arb with him and have to pay him $7.5-$8M. Baseball teams can’t walk away if they don’t like the arb decision, they’re stuck paying it. And, at 36 next year, you don’t want to be paying Nori Aoki more than either Smoak or Pearce are set to earn.

          • CashGameND

            well smoak is coming off one good season, everyone thought they were overpaying him going into this year, so you cant really throw his #s out like thats what a 4m dollar player should do. pearce was also considered a very good deal at 6.25m due to injuries. but thanks for bringing up the money being the issue, where he’s having a down year maybe the salary wouldnt go up? or does it always go up? He’s probably worth 5.5m for an avg mlb outfielder

          • He will not go up that high after the season he’s had. And no, they’re not stuck paying the arbitration decision — unless the CBA has changed and I missed it, they can still cut a guy before the season starts and be on the hook for just 1/6th of his salary (remember when they did this with Reed Johnson?).

            Still a waste if they don’t think they have any use for him, but… just so we’re clear.

          • The Humungus

            Sorry, I should have clarified. I was putting that down as his potential ask in arb, using the worst case scenario (like when they inexplicably lost arb to Chavez before 2016, which still seems like payback for somehow beating JD the year before).

            What I meant by bound is that they can’t walk away from the deal, they still have to pay him some. He appears to be a new fan, so I’m referencing the fact that in the NHL, teams can walk away from the arb decision and not pay the guy a cent, making him a free agent. Obviously in MLB they can still cut him before the season if they see fit as you mentioned.

        • Moon

          Because he will be 36 years old for a team that is already the oldest team in baseball. His numbers this year are much more likely a sign of a decline than a blip, and even prior to this year his numbers were never anything great and were barely good.

          The Jays aren’t going to compete next year despite the crap management and the TO media are trying to spew so why fill another roster spot with an old, declining player instead of a younger guy that can help the team lose just as easily as Aoki will.

          • The Humungus

            It’s great that you can predict what the roster will look like next year and that it won’t be able to compete for a playoff spot despite this season not being over yet (let alone an entire offseason).

            You must have won multiple lotteries with all your strange future knowing powers.

          • CashGameND

            while i agree they should get younger. i don’t think its a sure thing that they won’t compete next year. Teams and players have their ups and downs, red sox went from last in the al east to win the ws with mostly the same roster, their players just had a down season the year they finish last.

            That being said… I don’t like the way the roster is compiled & even if they could get in the playoffs next year I dont think they’re a serious WS contender, so I’d like to see them get what they can for all the guys on the last year of their deals if they’re not going to resign them

          • Moon

            Do you really think predicting sports outcomes and the lottery are comparable?

            The Jays are old and declining with a bad roster and basically zero assets they can use to improve the teams in trades.

            There is nothing coming up through the system for next year and no players that should be expected to have a noticeably improved season next year.

            There is zero reason to think the Jays will be a competitive team next year and zero options they have to improve enough to change that.

          • CashGameND

            so donaldson, tulo, morales, sanchez, travis cant have better or healthier seasons? they cant get free agents that might perform better then baustista, estrada, and liriano next year?

            just to name a few places they can easily improve with the same players & a couple free agents

          • The Humungus

            Again, it’s great that you know what the roster for 2018 is going to look like on July 31, 2017.

            There is stuff coming through the system. But I mean, that would require acknowledging that 2018 can be better than this year. Hernandez might not have a place in Houston (he’s not a 4th outfielder like Marisnick, and he’s certainly not going to unseed anyone they currently have playing, as Houston can’t afford to eat the Reddick deal), but on a team that can use a young, athletic corner OF, he’s a good fit.

            Plus, Alford. And the potential of a healthy Travis. And who knows what happens with the rotation.

            2018 can definitely be better than 2017. There is definitely that potential.

            Unless you know something even the front office doesn’t about who’s going to get hurt and what free agents are going to sign where.

  • Moon

    I guess anything is good for Liriano but this Hernandez doesn’t seem like anything close to a quality prosect or a future MLB guy. The author seems to be a little overexcited for a crap for crap deal.