In Liz, Pirates find a classic reclamation project
The Pirates hope this doesn’t turn out to be Daniel Cabrera 2.0.
Their eternal search for — and admirable success with — reclamation pitching projects has led them to the ultimate challenge: Right-hander Radhames Liz, with whom on Friday they reportedly agreed to a two-year Major League contract for $3 million.
Liz is a former Top 100 prospect credited with being a hard thrower with an arresting breaking pitch. But here’s the rub: That was nearly a decade ago, and he last appeared in the Majors in 2009.
Now 31, the Dominican right-hander hadn’t since fallen off the baseball map. In fact, his 2011-13 performance for Seoul in the Korean Baseball Organization featured enough progress to invite the Pirates’ interest in making him their latest makeover subject.
As of Noon, the Bucs hadn’t yet announced the deal. They were scrambling to make room for Liz on their 40-man roster, filled up by Thursday’s moves to protect Minor League prospects in the Rule 5 Draft.
Liz was 6-8 with a 7.50 ERA in limited showings with the 2007-09 Orioles, then went 26-38 in Korea. However, in a league with the reputation of being very offense-oriented, he stood out with an ERA of 3.51 in 85 starts.
He first attracted the interest of the Blue Jays, who brought him back to organized baseball last season. Liz went 3-2 with a 2.95 ERA in 12 starts between Double-A and Triple-A, then became a free agent.
He now will have an opportunity to take his place in the Pirates’ apocryphal Hall of Reclaimed Fame. Charter members are A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Vance Worley, Edinson Volquez, even Mark Melancon — all of whom had come to Pittsburgh at career low points and been “fixed” by pitching coach Ray Searage and pitching guru Jim Benedict, the special assistant to GM Neal Huntington.
The second coming of Cabrera?
Cabrera was another Baltimore pitching prospect from the Dominican who had considerably more success with the Orioles, breaking through with a 12-8 record in 2004. Then he developed issues, mostly due to control problems, and hit the baseball treadmill. The Pirates took a shot at him in 2012, but he was dealt to Arizona after going 6-6 in a half-season at Triple-A Indianapolis.