The dominoes began to fall in terms of the market for starting pitchers when David Price signed with the Boston Red Sox earlier this week. There has been a flurry of moves in the aftermath, both in free agency and on the trade market, but one of the top options heading into the winter is still available: Johnny Cueto.
With so many moves going down of late, it's starting to feel like Cueto may be running out of landing spots. Tuesday, SB Nation's Grant Brisbee took a look at potential destinations for the 29-year-old right-hander and came to the conclusion Minnesota would be an ideal fit. It's not that he feels particularly strongly about that opinion, however, calling it a dumb idea, but he defended it by saying Cueto to any team seems like a dumb idea at this point. Which is kinda true.
The freshest images of Cueto in our minds is him being wildly inconsistent after a deadline move to Kansas City. But last I checked things worked out pretty well for those guys, though. In 13 regular season starts with the Royals, Cueto had a 4.76 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. That was before October, when things got especially weird.
He had a poor first start against the Astros in the ALDS, pitched a gem with his team facing elimination in Game 5 of that series, got absolutely shelled in an ALCS start against Toronto before pitching a complete game two hitter against the Mets in Game 2 of the World Series.
Throw in some past concerns about his arm and back and you get a very confusing picture. Taking a look back further at his excellent run with the Cincinnati Reds makes things look a heck of a lot more exciting, but his uneven performance with KC seems to have left a bad impression, despite his dominant performance on the grandest stage.
Prior to being dealt, Cueto had a 2.62 ERA and 0.93 WHIP for the Reds. He would have been the 2014 NL Cy Young if it wasn't for Clayton Kershaw's historic MVP season. He missed most of 2013, but finished fourth in Cy Young voting in 2012. That kind of resume would have made him the top free agent in some years.
It was reported that Cueto rejected a six-year, $126 million offer from the Arizona Diamondbacks. They were so heartbroken they gave all their money to Zack Greinke and all their prospects to the Braves for Shelby Miller. So we know what Cueto hopes to get. The real question is what will it actually take to get him?
Many of the big market teams have already made moves to solidify their rotations. The Cardinals are unlikely to be open to signing Cueto due to bad blood over a brawl a few seasons back. There will still be plenty of suitors, his agent made a good point that all 30 teams could use a Johnny Cueto, but the market has already shrunk to some extent.
The money going to some of these pitchers ($90 million for Jeff Samardzija!?!?!?) is getting crazy, but it would not shock me if Cueto fails to beat that offer from Arizona. The big hangup will be that whoever signs him will have to forfeit a draft pick. For the Twins, that would be the 16th overall pick.
The Twins already have quantity when it comes to options to fill their rotation. Adding another middle of the road veteran would make little sense. Guys like Mike Leake or Wei-Yin Chen are not going to vastly improve the Twins chances at winning over the next few years. What the club could use is some quality at the top, and when you look at Cueto's resume it's undeniable that he's been among the best pitchers in baseball
If you don't think now's the time to spend money on a starter, just take a look at next year's market and try to find your guy there. Stephen Strasburg is the headliner, after that it's ... I don't know, Brett Anderson? The Twins could trade prospects for a starter instead, but did you see what Arizona gave up for Miller or what Miami wants for Jose Fernandez? No thanks.
So unless you like the idea of the unknown and want to see the team make a run at Japanese righty Kenta Maeda, Cueto is the club's best bet to move the needle in terms of making a splash in free agency between now and the 2017 offseason.
What do you think? Is the price plus the pick too much, or would it be worth it to add an ace?