SAN DIEGO -- Neal Huntington got his man. The Pirates reached agreement on Tuesday with free-agent left-hander Francisco Liriano on a three-year deal for a reported $39 million. The team announced the signing on Friday.
A physical exam needed to be taken before the contract could be completed. Liriano's first announced deal two years ago with the Pirates famously didn't become official until seven weeks later, the hangup in between being a fractured right arm.
Nevertheless, the Bucs took an important, and historic, step toward stabilizing their starting rotation for years to come.
No wonder Liriano had been Huntington's lead quarry from the onset of the offseason market, and it took the richest free-agent deal in club history to bag him. The previous record had been the two-year, $17 million pact that brought Russell Martin to Pittsburgh two years ago.
Bringing Liriano back could also enhance a return by Edinson Volquez, his good friend who is a free agent.
Between them, Liriano and Volquez won 20 games last season.
Liriano earned National League Comeback Player of the Year honors in his first season with the Pirates, going 16-8 in 2013. By comparison, he was only 7-10 last season -- when no one could appreciate his work as much as the Bucs, who saw him incur loss after loss due to poor run support.
In fact, Liriano held hitters to a lower average in 2014 (.218) than he had in 2013 (.224).
From the outset, the Pirates were intent on corralling Liriano prior to his market possibly becoming broader when such top-tier free-agent pitchers as Jon Lester, James Shields and Max Scherzer reached deals.
To make that happen, Huntington may have raised the Ervin Santana precedent with Liriano and his representatives: A year ago, Santana had likewise rejected his qualifying offer (from the Royals) and entered the market seeking a four-year deal. Santana wound up signing a one-year contract with the Braves for $14.1 million on March 12.