Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Gigante

Cueto
Photo credit: Fox Sports

I’ve been crunched for time lately, so wasn’t able to post any immediate reaction to the Giants signing Johnny Cueto. But I’m officially on vacation now, and of course I have some thoughts to share on the matter.

I’m not going to make you wonder – I’ll just come right out and say it. I LOVE this move for the Giants. I really liked the deal for Samardzija (who already looks, sounds like he was born to be a Giant, doesn’t he?), but the Cueto move took this offseason to a whole other level for me. This, my friends, is the type of move that makes you RUN to the phone and call/text every Giants fan you know.

First thing I did when I saw the tweet from Rosenthal (“Giants heavily pursuing Cueto”) was pick up the phone in my classroom and dial my best friend, who just happens to teach at the same school. “Giants… Johnny Cueto… Giants,” was about all I could spit out at the time. I knew, right then, that something big was about to happen.

The Cueto signing took me by complete surprise. I legitimately thought the Giants had already inked their biggest contract of the year with Samardzija, and was convinced they were going to bring back someone like Mike Leake. I said from the beginning that I didn’t believe the rumors for an elite outfielder, but I certainly never thought the front office would strike a $100M+ deal for Cueto. Honestly, I was 90% sure he’d be a Dodger.

Let’s get something straight. There sure seem to be a lot of people out there having to “talk themselves into” being a fan of the Cueto signing. I’m not criticizing those people, but I’m certainly not one of them. I mean, we’re talking about a pitcher who hasn’t finished a season in the NL with a 3+ ERA since 2010. We’re talking about a guy whose average Game Score was 65.6 in 2014. Plain and simple, that’s elite pitching. Zack Greinke, who’s now the richest pitcher in baseball, earned all that money by logging a 67.1 Game Score average this season… considered one of the best pitching campaigns in the last 20 years.

Johnny Cueto, on the other hand, was ignored by the pitching market because he missed a start in May and made 12 inconsistent starts in Kansas City. To recap: Greinke got the ultimate payday for what will go down as the best season in his career, by far, while Cueto, absolute beast in the NL for the past 5 years, took $75M less based on 12 starts in the AL. I watched Game 2 of the World Series (Cueto’s final 2015 start). At that point, it was already pretty apparent in reports that he’d cost himself $50M or more in free agency. But watching him that night, I made a mental note that whoever signed him could be getting one of the best bargains of the offseason.

I’m absolutely astounded Johnny Cueto is a Giant. Make no mistake, the opt-out clause is the #1 reason Bobby Evans and company were able to get him locked. I do not see Cueto pitching in San Francisco for 6 years. I think he sees the organization and the ball park as the perfect place to build his value back up. Cueto’s a guy who looks like he’s having fun on the mound. I do think he’ll love playing for this club, and will be well received by the city. If he’s back on the market in two seasons (as I believe he will be), there’s a very real chance he’s the proud owner of another World Series ring.

Is there risk in all this money the Giants have spent in the last month? Absolutely, and I’m not denying that for a second. But consider the alternative. Would you really prefer Mike Leake on a 5-year deal over Johnny Cueto for 6? The two guys were teammates for many seasons. One of them was the ace of that club… the other wasn’t. Yes, there is risk in the Cueto and Samardzija contracts. But the Giants, as I’ve said countless times, are all about looking at what a player CAN do. And Johnny Cueto can help this franchise achieve the ultimate goal.

I have to admit, as bad as I wanted the Giants to land Greinke, I think it’s pretty clear to me at this point that signing Cueto & Samardzija for essentially the same money was a tremendous plan B. Heck, I think I’m happier looking at this rotation now than I would have been with a Greinke deal. I certainly didn’t imagine saying that last month.

So Johnny Cueto is a Giant, and I can’t remember the last time I was this excited for a new season to start (maybe 2010-11?). We’ve known this all along, but it bears repeating: this is the golden age of Giants baseball!

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4 thoughts on “Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Gigante”

  1. I like his comments about the pitching staff,and working with kids in the minors.Having our top 3 starters set the time for the organization.Will be a big benefit for our younger starters in the minors.

    Peace Cove

  2. Cueto, not Greinke or Price, was the guy I wanted from the beginning. Even with his blip in KC, over the past four years he’s been the #2 pitcher, behind Kershaw, in ERA and ERA+. The guy is amazingly good. And he’s been, mostly, a work-horse.

    So even as lots of people were bummed about Greinke (I wasn’t and really didn’t want to pay him for a fluke season) I was pulling for the Giants to get in to the Cueto chase.

    I also think that by the time he gets to opt-out, there’s no reason the Giants can’t negotiate with him to keep him on the team unless they do something really stupid as the scheduled payroll, not adjusted for arbitration figures and any other 2016/2017 signings is just $106 million. Which is $47 million less than our current payroll. And that includes nearly $22 million already on the books for Cueto, which means there’s a soft $69 million of space.

    Of course there are other contract considerations. Options. Arbitration. Necessary FAs if the farm doesn’t provide. But there’s no reason to believe a $35 million/year contract would prohibitive to the Giants in 2018, Especially as $22 million of it was already assigned to Cueto to begin with.

    Anyway, I’m really happy with the signing. I’m really happy with the offseason. I really think that the Giants have had one of the best offseasons they’ve had in a long time.

    1. I agree Moses! Agreed on Greinke getting the big payday for a career year (worked out perfectly for him), and for Cueto being every bit the talent… People gripe about durability, but don’t recognize he’s gone 30 starts in all but 2 seasons (and 3 of last 4). I was surprised by the move, for sure, but I too knew they had the payroll space. I think Cueto will love playing in SF. Enough to restructure? Who knows, but I think the next couple years could be pretty special.
      Speaking of Greinke’s career year… What are the odds he’s even sub-2.50 in Arizona? My guess is he hangs in the high 2’s, low 3’s ERA range. Not bad at all, but over a run worse than 2015. For Cueto, I can’t wait to see what a guy who regularly logged 2 ERA’s in CINCY can do at AT&T. Let’s roll!

      1. Seven years ago Greinke had a similar season (205 ERA+) to last year’s (225 ERA+). His five in between seasons were ERA+ — 100 KC), 103 (MIL), 115 (two clubs), 135 (LAD), 129 (LAD). Then he had 2015 (225 ERA+).

        I should think he’ll be far closer to something in that spread than his 2015 225 ERA+. Because, really, that’s what the body of his work has been — a good #2 guy who, for whatever reason, has had a couple of amazing years (and some average ones) in there.

        In the end, what I see in Greinke is he is very Matt Cain (pre-falling apart)/Jordan Zimmerman like in the bulk of his career. And while I’d be happy to have a Jordan Zimmerman kind of guy in FA (as he’s a very good pitcher) I’d rather pay Zimmerman money for Greinke than Kershaw money for Greinke.

        So, when I get down to money, budgets, trade-offs, etc… Greinke, to me, is a $10-$12 million a year penalty for the Diamondbacks under the assumption Greinke pitches at his typical-career levels. Whereas Cueto will be about $8 million a year ‘found money’ for the Giants if he pitches to his typical career levels.

        tl;dr. D’Backs probably over-paid. Giants probably got a bargain. Nobody can be sure, yet. Odds favor the Giants to ‘win’ this FA/outcome round.

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