Now that the big prizes have signed in David Price and Zack Greinke, it’s time to look at the consolation prize pitchers like Johnny Cueto. Who is in the market for a pitcher like this, and why does Cueto fit the mold of that team’s plan? There are a lot of question marks about Johnny Cueto after he was dealt from Cincinatti to Kansas City. To say he pitched average in a Royals uniform would be generous to what he actually did at best. An interesting thing to think about is that if Cueto was never dealt at the deadline, how that would have ultimately affected his overall contractual value? Cueto was lights out in the first half of the season with the Reds, posting a 2.62 ERA, in comparison to his 13 starts with the Royals where he posted a 4.76 ERA.
Is there an argument to be made that if Cueto had not been dealt, that his value would be much higher now and more teams would be engaged with serious discussions with his camp? There is a really strong sense of belief that he should be getting more offers in the sense that the body of work he’s completed in the league is more than just the 13 starts he made for Kansas City. Posting a career 3.30 ERA and pitching on some pretty poor Reds teams really distinguishes the value that Cueto carries.
It’s interesting to consider that there are a lot of valuable pitchers left on the market, and taking this into consideration, I’m a little surprised that more teams in the National League aren’t showing stronger interest in Cueto, as he has really shown success in the past in the NL. With that being said, it is fair to note why a team would be scared to put a lot of money on the table for a pitcher like Cueto, especially in the AL with the way he pitched there. There were flashes in the playoffs of Cueto showing brilliance, but consistency was a big issue for him. With all of this being said, what are the best fits for Cueto’s services?
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
After the loss of Greinke to the DBacks, the Dodgers are in need of another top-3 pitcher in their rotation. Is Cueto looking to be an ace or is he looking to go to a team where he won’t have to carry the rotation? If the latter is the case, the Dodgers could be a fit.
2. St Louis Cardinals
Now, don’t laugh at this premise. There is certainly still plenty of bad blood between the two, but there is a definite hole in the Cardinals rotation and they do have the money to spend.
3. San Francisco Giants
After signing Jeff Samardzija, the Giants are still in the market for another starter, and whether that is Leake or Cueto, is still being looked at. Pitching at AT&T Park could be interesting for a pitcher of Cueto’s makeup.
4. Seattle Mariners
If the price begins to fall, the Mariners could be seen as a dark horse for Cueto’s services. After the loss of Hisashi Iwakuma, Cueto could certainly fill this hole if a team in the AL like the Mariners are willing to take a chance on him.
5. Arizona Diamondbacks
After reportedly offering Cueto a 6-year, $120-million contract and Cueto rejecting it, the Diamondbacks could become a fit again if the price in the Cueto market continues to diminish. Greinke signing with Arizona has made them less vulnerable in the starting pitching department, but Cueto could still be a good fit here.
Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke were best starting pitchers in #MLB over the past 3 seasons, by ERA+ . . . No. 3? Johnny Cueto.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 5, 2015
There are certainly question marks around Cueto and some consistency issues, but it will be interesting to see how his past performances before his time in Kansas City will affect the market for him. Will a desperate team overpay for his services, or will his value continue to drop with the lack of supposed interest? The coming weeks will be very telling with Cueto, and we will get a better understanding of where he’s at in terms of interested teams and dollar figures.