Liriano to join Pirates rotation after all

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The pool of candidates for the Pirates' 2013 starting rotation continued to grow Monday, as did the team's projected opening-day payroll.

Free-agent left-hander Francisco Liriano agreed to new terms with the Pirates, according to a report from Fox Sports, after an injury to Liriano's non-throwing arm disrupted the original contract negotiations.

Liriano and the Pirates were close to agreeing to terms on a two-year, $12.75 million contract in late December, but a broken right arm suffered before Liriano took a physical slowed the process.

Liriano, 29, must pass a physical before the signing is announced. The deal is expected to take some time before becoming official.

According to Fox Sports, Liriano still can make all the money owed him on the original contract if the arm injury does not force him to miss any time in 2013, but if it does, his salary could shrink.

Liriano walked at least five batters per nine innings and had an ERA of more than 5.00 in each of the past two seasons.

The Minnesota Twins removed him from their rotation early in 2012. In 2010, he pitched 1912/3 innings with a 3.62 ERA and struck out 201 batters.

If the deal becomes official, Liriano will join a rotation featuring A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald and Jeff Karstens.

The signing likely would force Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson to start the season at Class AAA Indianapolis.

Adding Liriano provides the Pirates with solid starting pitching depth. In addition to Locke and McPherson, Charlie Morton is on track to return from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in June or July, and top prospect Gerrit Cole, who will start the season at Indianapolis, could make his debut in the second half of 2013 if all goes well.

The signing also will increase the payroll if the deal becomes official. The team currently has about $63 million committed to 12 players in 2013, though $13.5 million of that will come from the New York Yankees for Burnett and the Houston Astros for Rodriguez.

Arbitration salaries for McDonald and Neil Walker, the minimum salaries of at least $490,000 for the final 11 players on the active roster and salaries for the rest of the 40-man roster bring the projected opening-day payroll to approximately $76 million.

Though Liriano's 2013 salary is not yet known, it could increase the payroll to $80 million or more.

That raises the question of whether the Pirates will trade Garrett Jones, who avoided arbitration and will make $4.5 million in his second of four years of arbitration eligibility.

The Pirates have several options at first base and right field, though there are no indications they wish to trade Jones.

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Bill Brink: and Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published January 22, 2013 5:00 AM


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