The San Francisco Giants bet big that Johnny Cueto is more World Series hero than late-season goat, agreeing to sign the best remaining free-agent pitcher on the market for six years and $130 million, a source familiar with the contract told Yahoo Sports on Monday afternoon.
Cueto, 29, vacillated between brilliance and implosion after a trade-deadline deal to the Kansas City Royals thrust him into the playoff crucible. His final game with Kansas City was his best, a complete-game two-hitter in Game 2 of the World Series that erased an ALCS implosion and showcased the excellence he had shown for half a decade.
With the Cincinnati Reds, Cueto grew into one of the game's most consistent starters, his ERA starting with a "2" for four consecutive years and his innings total typically topping 200. The right-hander, signed by the Reds out of the Dominican Republic, was eyeing a monster payday all season and landed it with the aggressive Giants. He got it, as well as an opt-out clause after two years, according to ESPN, which first reported the news of the agreement.
After turning down $120 million from the Arizona Diamondbacks, who later gave Zack Greinke more than $200 million, Cueto waited out the market and leapt at the chance to join a Giants team loading up for another even-year World Series run. Earlier in the offseason, San Francisco inked right-hander Jeff Samardzija to a five-year, $90 million deal, banking on his 2015 season as an anomaly and hoping that pitching in front of the Giants' strong defense and in pitcher-friendly AT&T Park would help him return to his previous level.
The same can be said for Cueto, whose awful five-start stretch bridging August and September ultimately didn't do much harm to his market. The biggest issue with Cueto concerned his right elbow, which has barked in recent years and was a concern among some teams that otherwise would've been interested in him.
For the Giants, the fear wasn't strong enough to dissuade them from going after Cueto. Sliding him between Madison Bumgarner and Samardzija in the rotation and in front of a lineup with Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik, Brandon Belt, Matt Duffy, Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco may well make them the favorite in the National League West, depending on the moves from rival Los Angeles – which has remained quiet this offseason – and the resurgent Diamondbacks.
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