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Monday, December 14, 2015

Elbow checks out, Giants sign Johnny Cueto

Well, if you remember earlier this offseason when the top-three free agent starting pitchers came off the board so quickly, it left Johnny Cueto as the cream of the crop pretty early on. I also posted shortly after the Zach Grienke signing that it was Johnny Cueto or bust for SF. Needless to say, the team did not "bust"!

The Giants were reportedly in on Johnny Cueto sort of all along, but were never considered favorites after signing Jeff Samrdzija to that big deal earlier this month. However, the Giants still needed a starter, probably compared the money they'd give to Cueto to the money they'd have to pay a guy like Mike Leake and decided it better to take that last "potential ace" off the market, signing him to a 6-year, $130M contract. I don't blame them one bit. I mean, Mike Leake, who's about the same age as Cueto, has nowhere near Cueto's ability to dominate when he's on. I mean, just look at game two of the World Series last year. If there were any doubts about his right-elbow entering the offseason and free agency, they were pretty much cleared up with that dominant, two-hit complete game shutout of the Mets. That was apparently the big worry about Cueto, as it has been for much of his career, the health. However, he's made all his starts the last two seasons and has only had one year since 2008 in which he started less than 24 games.

The thing about Cueto that probably made him so appealing to the Giants though, is how he performs when he is out there on the mound, which can reach MadBum levels. This guy has been really good for about 6-7 years now and will be just entering his age-30 season. Since the start of the 2012 season, he's gone 55-33 with a 2.78 ERA and 1.01 WHIP while striking out about 8 hitters per nine innings and walking just over 2. He's one of the tougher pitchers in baseball to hit and what makes this resume even more impressive is the fact that half of his starts over that time span have come in the hitter friendly Great American Ballpark (The Coors Field of the mid-west). He was runner up in the Cy Young voting last year after going 20-9 with a 2.22 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 243 K's while hurling 246 innings in 2014. So I'm sure you get it, and I'm sure you've picked up on it the last half decade or so when he's gone up against San Francisco: Johnny Cueto is a damn good pitcher..... When he's healthy.

So, what's the deal look like? It's actually not that bad at all, after considering what the two guys ahead of him got (David Price $217M, Zack Grienke $207M). When free-agency first started, I kinda was looking at Jordan Zimmerman as the bargain, as I thought his price tag would be the cheapest of the premiere arms, and he could be nearly as effective as the others at a discount rate. However, guys who've undergone TJ Surgery haven't historically done well deep into their career's after the surgery, so giving him a long term deal taking him into his mid-later 30's wasn't ideal. Now Cueto seems like a bargain. The dread-locked ace will receive $130M over 6 seasons, granted he does have an opt-out option after 2 years and $46M, which almost view as a positive. One thing I like about the opt-out clause as it does give Cueto extra incentive to keep healthy and sharp at the beginning of the deal. I mean, wouldn't signing Cueto to a 2-year $46M deal be reasonable anyway? The contract also includes a team option for a 7th-year which could take the deal over $150M. So when you look at it, the Giants nearly ended up getting both Jeff Samrdzija and Johnny Cueto for not much more than they would have had to pay just one of David Price or Zack Grienke. I'm much happier with the Cueto/Samardzija duo than a prospective Grienke/Heston duo, that's for sure.

Just look at the rotation now:

LHP Madison Bumgarner
RHP Johnny Cueto
RHP Jeff Samardzija
RHP Jake Peavy
RHP Matt Cain

Wow! I mean, if the Giants get any kind of rebound out of Matt Cain and Peavy can stay on the field, this could again be among the better rotations in the game. Bumgarner and Cueto now give them a 1-2 punch that equals any in baseball, period, and the last time Samardzija was in the NL, he looked like a top-end rotation guy himself. This staff has a lot of interesting things going on with it now. If their two new signings can dominate in the NL West like they were able the NL Central then things should be great for the Giants. The move pushes Chris Heston into the long-relief role previously held by Yusmiero Petit and allows Bochy to slot Petit in for Cain if need be or Peavy if/when he makes his token DL appearance(s) this season. It gives the Giants so much more depth, and makes them so much more quality, I can't help but give Bobby Evans and Brian Sabean two thumbs up for this one. If they aren't able to find a starting left fielder, it's a question of would you rather have had Dexter Fowler or Johnny Cueto? I think you take a potential ace over a slightly above-average outfielder any day of the week. That said, the Giants are still expected to find an everyday solution in left, as Bobby Evans said on KNBR Monday, so things could be getting even better really soon.

I'll tell you one thing, I'm much more optimistic about the Giants heading into the 2016 season right now than I was in even their championship seasons (although I did like 2014's team a lot coming in). I still would love to see them upgrade left field significantly, but this signing takes some pressure off that and if Bobby Evans says he intends on finding an everyday guy I won't doubt him. Especially not after inking one of the most effective right-handed starters of the last half-decade! As long as he stays healthy.......
The Giants Baseball Blog


  • At 5:40 PM, Anonymous Jason Billingsley said…

    I agree with you about the opt-out. In two years the fa class is stocked with starters. SO i really hope he does dominate the next two years for us and opts out and we can either re-sign him or go out and get one of the many arms out there like Matt Harvey or Felix Hernandez.
    I like this deal a lot. ONe thing too is that it takes him away from the dodgers who i really thought he was going to go to. I wonder if that had a lot to do with the Giants having so much interest to??

    Can't wait to go see these two new guys pitch in our big pitcher friendly yard. I Have a feeling their gonna hvae great seasons!

  • At 3:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Giants should just bring back byrd and then wait and see and deal for someone in June?July if they have to. They always make those big trades in season when they win (peavy in 14 and Pence in 12)


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