The Reds locked up yet another young player long-term today, finalizing terms with pitchers Johnny Cueto on a $27 million dollar, 4-year contract.
Cueto gets $3.4 million this year, $5.4 million in 2012, $7.4 million in 2013 and $10 million in 2014. Cincinnati has a $10 million option for 2015 with an $800,000 buyout.
Cueto went 12-7 last season, establishing career highs in wins and innings. He led the staff with 138 strikeouts and made 18 quality starts. The bullpen blew six save chances behind him, the second-highest total for any pitcher in the majors. Cincinnati was shut out in three of his seven losses.
I like the move. I look at it in a couple different ways. If Johnny Cueto was a Red in the late 90’s or from 2000 to 2004ish, he would have been advertised as a front-line guy. He’s got stuff that allows him to be a #2 starter in his sleep and with a little more development he’s one of the guys you definitely consider having a chance hulking up and turning into that coveted #1 guy the Reds really need.
I like his upside, make-up, and overall stuff better than I like Edinson Volquez. Volquez might have more pump to his fastball by a few MPH on nights, and he has the dubious distinction of being the man the Reds dealt Josh Hamilton to acquire; but on a day when you have to win a ballgame between the two I’m rolling with Cueto.
A lot of folks want to talk about this ‘average’ off-season the Reds have had. I’ll say this: they’ve done what they needed to do and what they should have done. They’ve locked up their young talent. The centerpiece of that being the true long-term deal they gave to Jay Bruce.
They followed with giving Joey Votto a good faith raise, and now Cueto is locked up to what the Reds became accustomed to calling a ‘long-term’ contract (it’s pretty good if you can get four years in Cincinnati. See Phillips, Brandon). There’s been whispers about the desire to give Edinson Volquez some financial security in the way of a new contract.
I lobbied for so long for them to do this. Take the blueprint of other teams who have had success, namely the 90’s Indians under John Hart. They’re giving themselves a window to compete. Now you’ve got the 24-year old Cueto along with Bruce, Votto, Volquez (presumably), and Aroldis Chapman all under contract within that window.
This is when they’re going to go after it. They can add pieces if they’re close, and I expect them to subtract and re-sculpt a little bit if they fall out of things. I would hate it but I wouldn’t be shocked if Brandon Phillips’ future in Cincinnati is hinged on how well the Reds perform over the first 5/8’s of next season. But that’s what I believe.
I applaud Bob Castellini for shelling out some money to try and make this team a winner though. Like someone else said, he’s never spent this kind of money on employees in the produce busienss. And it might not be this year–it might not even be next year. But over the window of time with these young guys along with the prospects the Reds have down in the farm system and what they will continue to acquire–they’re going to catch the Phillies in a down year. Or a year where they’ve gotten particularly ‘older’. And that’s when you’re going to be glad that this window was created.