This needed to be done.

The Pirates had to go out and sign Francisco Liriano.

But, fans beware, from this vantage they are getting a meshing of the 2013 and 2014 Liriano and one that figures to be a decent No. 2 or No. 3 starter — not that top-of-the-rotation, shutdown ace who shoves it every fifth day.

As long as you don’t have your aspirations too sky-high, you won’t be let down.

That’s where I am with all of this. I’m not going to tell you where you should be, but that’s where I am with all of this.

According to multiple reports on Tuesday afternoon, the club inked Liriano to a three-year, $39 million deal, bringing the left-hander back for what will be his 10th Major League season and third with the Pirates.

For both sides, this is more than reasonable, as Liriano might have been able to fetch more on the open market — although word is teams were hesitant to give him that fourth year he was seeking — and for the Pirates, who had money to spend, the expenditure was about the going rate (perhaps a bargain) for a guy of his caliber.

My worry, however, is for the fans.

All the initial elation and ecstasy that met the news on Tuesday, I hope, is tempered by thoughts that the 2013 Liriano might never return.

You see, that was a devastating, wipe-you-out lefty who went 16-8 and had a 3.02 ERA.
Can Liriano be really good again? Yep, maybe.

Can he be that guy who carries a staff? I wouldn’t bet on it — and that’s OK, because for me, it’s high time for Gerrit Cole to turn into that man.

Liriano fought through injury and control problems and went 7-10 with a 3.38 ERA last season. He put on a stellar display on Opening Day but had a 5.06 ERA toward the end of May and just one win through the middle of June.

Is he as bad as he showed in that stretch? Positively not. He rebounded well in September, when the Pirates needed him most.

That’s why, from this viewpoint I would anticipate, over the next few seasons, to see the Pirates get that No. 2 or No. 3 starter out of Liriano — a guy who can give them at least 160 innings and keep his ERA between 3.40-3.90.

Again, that’s not bad at all; I’m just hoping people don’t get caught up in the news of today and demand a staff ace performance from Liriano each time out.

A couple things here:

First, I don’t believe Liriano is 31 years old. That isn’t necessarily calling him a liar, but calling to attention a not-uncommon practice by Latin players through the years that many call the “exchange rate” where such players pose as being younger early in their career to fully realize monetary value from big league organizations.

Guys do it all the time and then, for the length of their career, need to stand by that initial (false) birth date that they used.

It’s my opinion Liriano is a touch older than 31 and a product of the “exchange rate.”

That isn’t the end of the world, not even close — but I’m working off the premise he will be about 36 or 37 in that final year of his contract, not 34.

Next, Liriano’s walks-per-9 inning number jumped to 4.5 from 3.5 over the last two years and 2014 saw an increase in home runs allowed, hit batsmen and wild pitches while he threw virtually the same amount of innings as the previous season.

In short, he needs to get better command of his command.

Don’t get me wrong here, the Pirates went out and procured a talent that they had to — they got Liriano at a very good rate economically and he’s a guy who should bolster their efforts in 2015.

But do something for your own sanity — pump the brakes a bit and maybe don’t expect the 2013 Liriano to be out there on the mound. He’s still good. But I don’t know if he’ll ever be that good again.

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