According to Rick Piecoro, Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart flew to the Dominican Republic to talk to Cueto, as well as talking to Cueto’s agent. Arizona is still interested in signing Johnny Cueto and considers the $120 million contract an initial offer. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick believes that Johnny Cueto is looking for a deal in the $140 to $160 million price range:
If Gilbert and Piecoro have accurate information, then Johnny Cueto is clearly out of the Kansas City Royals price range.
I would much rather the KC Royals sign BOTH Alex Gordon and Ben Zobrist, rather than pursue a reunion with Cueto. $120 million might actually put the Kansas City Royals in the ballpark of landing both, but would probably still fall short. I think the lowest price that general manager Dayton Moore can hope to satisfy Gordon would be a five year, $85 million deal, while I’m guessing it will take three-years, $60 million for Zobrist.
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Johnny Cueto went 4-7, with a 4.76 ERA with the KC Royals in 81.1 innings, after posting a dominating 2.62 ERA in 130.2 innings for the Cincinnati Reds in 2015. Investing $20 million a year in a pitcher that struggled after coming over to the American League, even one with Johnny Cueto’s track record, seems like an unsound investment.
Expect the Kansas City Royals to address their starting pitcher needs by hitting the market for mid-tier free agents like they did last season. I like reclamation project Mat Latos or Ian Kennedy. Both are fly ball pitchers that would excel in front of the KC Royals defense.
Bringing back swingman Chris Young, or even a reunion with Joe Blanton, are distinct possibilities. In fact, I would recommend signing both. Blanton and Young helped the KC Royals survive injuries to three starters last May with emergency starts.
Dayton Moore would be wise to rebuild such versatility from his bullpen in 2016.
As for Johnny Cueto, it seems that his late-season struggles in Kansas City will hurt his value this winter. Right now, Cueto ranks behind David Price and Zack Greinke on the free-agent market. Other teams might also prefer Nationals righty Jordan Zimmerman, despite a history of elbow surgery.