KC Royals fans can forget about the market for pitcher Johnny Cueto softening to the point that he might be affordable for Kansas City. That’s not going to happen after the Arizona Diamondbacks snatched ace Zack Greinke from the Dodgers and Giants with a six-year deal for a record $34 million per season.
David Price is also off the market after agreeing to a $217 million deal with the Red Sox on Wednesday. Friday’s stunning move leaves the 29-year-old Johnny Cueto as the last true ace remaining on the free agent market, and two big-market clubs who were just jilted at the altar by Zack Greinke to bid on him.
Yeah. That’s not gonna end up being cheap.
In fact, Johnny Cueto is now in the catbird seat.
After Cueto crashed in his two-month run as a deadline rental with the KC Royals, many pundits speculated that Cueto’s value had suffered a severe nose dive. After all, his 4-7 record, with a 4.76 ERA in two months with the Royals is hardly the performance teams expect from an ace.
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Johnny Cueto missed time earlier in the 2015 season with an elbow injury. Add in his struggles with the KC Royals, and some wondered if Cueto was pitching hurt. Such speculation is why many pundits declared Cueto a bad risk in the free-agent market.
All of that now matters little after the Dodgers and Giants are left hanging after Greinke signed a $208 million mega-deal in Arizona. Both teams still need a top-end starter, and both had been thinking they were going to land Zack Greinke. Johnny Cueto is the best consolation prize left in the market.
Behind Cueto is a steep drop-off to names like Mike Leake, Jeff Samardzija, and Scott Kazmir. None of those guys have two dominant post-season starts for a World Series winner like Johnny Cueto does after throwing two-hit gems in ALDS Game 5 and World Series Game 2.
No matter that Johnny Cueto’s post-season line read 2-1 with a 5.40 ERA with the Kansas City Royals last season. Under the current circumstances, either the Giants or Dodgers will convince themselves that Cueto showed he can dominate on the biggest stage—which justifies a mega-deal.
Right now, Johnny Cueto’s agent is looking really smart for turning down a $120 million offer from the Diamondbacks earlier this week. If the well-heeled Giants and Dodgers get into a bidding war over Cueto, the price is likely to zoom past the $175 million mark over six years.
KC Royals fans can expect the mid-tier market to become active once Johnny Cueto decides on a destination. Expect Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore to lay the groundwork for more bargain basement shopping at the upcoming winter meetings.