In an effort to improve their pitching, the Yankees called the Twins this offseason about the availability of Francisco Liriano, a baseball official with knowledge of the conversations between the two teams said.
Thus far, the Twins have been unwilling to trade Liriano. While Minnesota is not necessarily looking to shop the left-hander, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported last month that the Twins could be talked into it. Although Liriano is considered the Twins' ace, he is eligible for free agency after the 2012 season. Minnesota has depth with its starting pitching and could look to sell high, thinking they won't be able to sign Liriano.
As of right now, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said there are no talks with the Twins.
"I'm not talking to anyone about anything right now," Cashman told ESPNNewYork.com's Wallace Matthews. "Nobody's available. Nobody of value, anyway."
Twins executives also have recently said that Liriano is unavailable right now. If a trade for an ace were to happen before the regular season, it is more likely to occur toward the end of spring training when teams have a better idea of their roster strengths and weaknesses heading into the season.
If no trade is made, the Yankees will likely watch the Twins closely because Liriano is the type of starter they would like to slot behind CC Sabathia in their rotation.
Entering the season, the Yankees have question marks after Sabathia and Phil Hughes. A.J. Burnett finished 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA last year, while Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon and Sergio Mitre are the main contenders for the No. 4 and 5 starter spots.
On Monday, USA Today's Bob Nightengale tweeted that the Yankees are keeping a close eye on Liriano, while Minnesota is scouting the Yankees' prospects. Nova and Joba Chamberlain are potential Twins trade targets.
Cashman likely would not give up his top two pitching prospects, Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances. Both are slated for Double-A, but could push for spots with the Yankees later in the year and could be potential Yankees starters next season.
Liriano, 27, was 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA. After bursting on the scene in the 2006, going 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA, Liriano's career was slowed by Tommy John surgery. He is slated to make $4.3 million this season.
Andrew Marchand covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.