Just when it appeared that the Francisco Liriano and Pittsburgh Pirates were on the road to formalizing an agreement on a two-year deal, the story may have taken yet another turn. Tom Singer, highlighting the Bucs’ non-roster spring training invitees for MLB.com, notes that Liriano is expected to head to camp with a Minor League deal.

Singer, via MLB.com:

“With the addition of [Kyle] Waldrop, Pittsburgh’s NRI list stands at 18, and there is at least one more on the way: Indications are that Francisco Liriano — when all the roadblocks to formalizing his signing are cleared — will wind up coming to camp on a Minor League deal and an invite.

Bringing in Liriano on a Minor League deal would give the team ample time to figure out how to make room on the 40-man for the veteran lefty, whose participation figures to be delayed due to the broken right arm that complicated his signing.”

Liriano, of course, was set to sign a two-year $12.75 million deal with the Pirates in December, but the agreement fell apart when it was revealed that the left-hander injured his non-throwing arm in some kind of bathroom accident. Seriously.

The Pirates and Liriano appeared to be on the path to a restructured deal, with the pitcher assuming some risk in the event he missed time, but Singer’s revelation certainly throws a wrench into the reports that the initial term (two-years) and value ($12.75 million) remained intact. There’s been nothing in the way of an official announcement on Liriano’s situation at this point.

This could just be a case of Neal Huntington and co. taking a cautious approach with an investment while shuffling the 40-man roster. As Tim Williams at Pirates Prospects notes, a Minor League deal would allow them the Bucs to wait as long as possible before adding Liriano to the roster:

“If Liriano is ready by opening day, that decision would be easy. The Pirates will eventually open a spot on the 40-man when they place Charlie Morton on the 60-day disabled list. That type of move usually takes place during the final weeks of Spring Training. If Liriano was on a typical minor league deal, the Pirates wouldn’t have to add him to the 40-man roster until after Morton was eligible for the 60-day DL.”

There’s been more drama to the Pirates signing Liriano than anyone could have asked for. The risk here is far too apparent, but Liriano at a further discount could help bolster the reward component if he can eventually contribute.

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