With the Winter Meetings in Nashville nearing their end, most of the big-name pitchers on the free agent market have found new homes for the 2016 season. One notable name has been left waiting however. Right-hander Johnny Cueto is still without a new home.
According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, Cueto reportedly received a six-year, $126 million offer from the Diamondbacks earlier this month, but wound up declining the offer, and now the former All-Star’s market appears to have shrunk. While Arizona has since filled their starting pitching need by signing Zack Greinke and acquiring Shelby Miller, other teams may be reluctant to offer Cueto the contract he is seeking.
Once seen as a hands-down ace, Cueto’s second half showing with the Kansas City Royals as well as his so-so postseason performance may have diminished his potential earnings and scared some teams away. However, Cueto’s agent Bryce Dixon seems to think a certain NL Central team could be a very good fit for Cueto: The St. Louis Cardinals.
Yes, those St. Louis Cardinals.
The same Cardinals Jason LaRue played for.
For those readers who are unfamiliar with the story, Jason LaRue played for the Cardinals in 2010, and during an in-game brawl with the Cincinnati Reds, sustained a kick to the head that left him with a severe concussion that led to the then 36-year-old retiring at season’s end, an injury that still affects him today. By now you can probably guess that it was none other than Johnny Cueto that delivered the career-ending blow to LaRue, a fact that many Cardinal fans are still furious over and have not forgiven.
The general reaction would be to dismiss any idea of Cueto possibly playing in St. Louis, as the general baseball public already has. However, while speaking with MLB Trade Rumors, Dixon said that he believes Cueto can convince Cardinal fans to forgive him with his play and desire to win, “I can’t speak to how the Cardinals feel. ..Obviously [Johnny] regrets how the fight went down,” Dixon told Zach Links of MLB Trade Rumors.
“He’s expressed regret over it in the past. He loves pitching in the NL Central. He’s the best pitcher of our era in the NL Central. It would be a good marriage [between] Johnny and the Cardinals. I think once the fans got past the fight and they saw what a gamer Johnny is and what he could bring to the team, I think they would be able to embrace him now, though I don’t think that they’ll do that overnight.”
It sounds like Dixon knows that Cardinal fans wouldn’t stomach the signing well at first, but he could be on to something when he says that Cueto and the Cardinals “would be a good marriage.” Now it’s up to general manager John Mozeliak and the St. Louis management to decide if Cueto’s talent overcomes his tainted past.