The Twins traded the left-hander to the division rival White Sox on Saturday night for infielder Eduardo Escobar and left-hander Pedro Hernandez. It's just the seventh time the two clubs have completed a trade and the first time since 1986.
"It was getting close to the deadline, and we're trying to make a good baseball trade," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "We certainly were looking for a possible trade with Frankie. I do want to mention that this guy is one of the best guys we've got in that clubhouse. He's a good teammate. He's a good worker, and I decided the timing, I'm going to make this move. I'm not thrilled with trading him within the division, obviously. You know where we are in the standings."
Prospects acquired by Twins
Eduardo Escobar, SS: While no longer technically a prospect because of big league service time, the 23-year-old Escobar did start the year as the No. 4 prospect on the White Sox' Top 20. He's a tremendous defender with plus range at shortstop, though he hasn't played much there this year in Chicago, seeing most of his time at third while also logging innings at second and in the outfield. While certainly a glove-first player, Escobar has shown some glimpses with the bat, especially in the Arizona Fall League in 2010. If his offense can develop a little, he could be a good defensive-oriented every-day shortstop. If not, he should have a long career as a utilityman.
Pedro Hernandez, LHP: Hernandez was No. 20 on the White Sox' Top 20, though he got to spend less than a year in the system. The southpaw came to the organization in the Carlos Quentin deal last offseason. He began the year in Double-A, moved to Triple-A and made his big league debut with a spot start in July. With a fastball in the low-90s and a deceptive changeup, Hernandez has two outstanding pitches. His breaking ball isn't quite as sharp as those two, but if it comes he has the chance to be a big league starter, especially since he has decent command. If not, the fastball-changeup combination should be enough for life as a lefty setup man.
Liriano, who was scheduled to start against the Indians on Sunday, will instead be joining Chicago's rotation. Left-hander Brian Duensing will make a spot start in his place.
Liriano is scheduled to remain in Minnesota, as the Twins host the White Sox in a three-game series starting Monday at Target Field. Liriano is expected to make his first start with Chicago against his former team sometime next week.
The 28-year-old was 3-10 and posted a 5.31 ERA with 109 strikeouts and 55 walks in 100 innings with the Twins this season, but he's been pitching better recently with a 3.68 ERA with 79 strikeouts in 66 innings over his last 12 outings dating back to May 30 after a stint in the bullpen due to early season struggles.
"That was a rollercoaster season so far," Ryan said. "It was a struggle, then he was great. He's capable, as we all know. He's capable of being quite good when he pitches ahead, throws the ball over the plate. It's as simple as that."
It's the second time Liriano has been dealt in his career, as he was acquired by the Twins in a 2003 trade with the Giants that also brought Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser to Minnesota for catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who will be Liriano's catcher in Chicago.
Liriano, who is set to be a free agent after the season, was 50-52 and posted a 4.33 ERA in 156 career appearances with the Twins. He struck out 788 and walked 324 in 783 1/3 innings. He also threw a no-hitter against the White Sox last season at U.S. Cellular Field.
But the Twins didn't approach Liriano about a possible contract extension before they opted to trade him, according to Ryan.
"I didn't pursue an extension," Ryan said. "I don't want to pretend like we pursued an extension and I don't want to pretend like they did. We never talked about an extension with either party -- his representative or us."
Escobar, a 23-year-old who can play shortstop, second base and third base, has played in 35 games with the White Sox this season, batting .195 with a .275 on-base percentage and .244 slugging percentage. Escobar, who started the year ranked as Chicago's No. 4 prospect according to MLB.com, is a career .270/.315/.351 hitter in six Minor League seasons.
He'll be optioned to Triple-A Rochester, as the Twins want him to get consistent playing time after coming off the bench for the White Sox this season.
"That was a tough decision because he's been in the big leagues, but I think he needs regular at-bats and we're going to send him to Rochester for that reason," Ryan said. "He's a switch-hitter who can run. He's got tremendous energy, he's strong enough. He can play shortstop. He can play second. He doesn't really profile at third offensively, but he can play there. Defensively you wouldn't have any problem with any of the three."
Hernandez, also 23, made his Major League debut against the Red Sox on July 18, and allowed eight runs on 12 hits over four innings. Hernandez, ranked as the White Sox's No. 20 prospect by MLB.com, has a career 3.42 ERA in six Minor League seasons. He has a 2.94 ERA split between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte this year.
Hernandez, whose wife gave birth to a healthy baby girl on Saturday, will be transferred from Charlotte to Rochester where he'll remain a starter.
"He has enough stuff," Ryan said. "He's got a fastball, slider and a change. He throws a lot of strikes, which is good."
With both Escobar and Hernandez on the 40-man roster, the Twins also transferred right-hander P.J. Walters to the 60-day disabled list. He was originally placed on the 15-day DL on May 14 twith right shoulder inflammation.
The Twins will recall right-hander Jeff Manship prior to Monday's game to take Liriano's spot on the 25-man roster.