Earlier this week, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported that San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto will likely opt out of the remaining four years and $84 million of his massive contract signed after 2015.
It has been pretty obvious that Cueto seems as lost as any other Giants player this season. San Francisco stands at 29-51, 23.5 games behind bitter rivals Los Angeles in the National League West, and that stat will become even more lopsided as the Dodgers, winners of 17 of their last 19 games, pull further away.
Cueto’s incentive to leave San Francisco and test the market is largely due to his previous success, and his age. At 31 years old with a 119-82 record and a career 3.28 ERA, Cueto is due for one last major payday in free agency. But before he tests such a market, there’s quite a desire for an additional dependable arm in one pennant contender’s rotation.
The Houston Astros have the best record in Major League Baseball, but injuries have ravaged their stellar rotation. American League Cy Young hopefuls Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers have each seen time on the disabled list, as well as offseason signing Charlie Morton. It’s easy to say, in a postseason system that values elite pitching over anything else, that the Astros are one pitcher away from having a postseason-caliber rotation.
On account of all of this, Jeff Luhnow and the Astros need to be right on Cueto’s tail. Cueto’s stats this season have taken a hit, but with almost all of the Giants’ starting lineup having been on the DL from time to time this year, his ERA and winning percentage (two stats that are just as reliant on defense as pitching excellence) have suffered.
Cueto’s workload has been astonishingly high, as well. His 16 starts and 427 batters faced are tops in the majors, as Madison Bumgarner‘s absence has made Cueto the de facto number one pitcher in AT&T Park. Last season, though, with a healthy Giants club, Cueto garnered Cy Young and NL MVP votes with an 18-5 record and an ERA under 3.00 all season long.
Despite established American Leaguers like Jose Quintana and Sonny Gray on the trading block, Cueto would be the best bet for Houston, due to his history of being a proven, steady playoff pitcher. At the 2015 trade deadline, the Cincinnati Reds dealt the Dominican to the Kansas City Royals, who eventually won the World Series thanks in part to Cueto’s complete game of two-hit, one-run baseball in Game 2 of the Fall Classic.
The Astros, in essentially the final stage of their great rebuild, have a promising future with youth all around them, such as Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and George Springer. With farm league prospects to burn in the system, taking a shot at the World Series crown with Cueto at the price of a few prospects is no tall order.
The three-time All-Star could be making his last great postseason run, and Houston would be the team to do it with. The Astros have the best record in the American League by a healthy margin and seemingly have all of the horses in and out of the lineup to succeed in the playoffs. With the trade deadline of July 31 quickly approaching, here’s hoping the Astros pursue the dynamic and exciting Johnny Cueto.