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!