Sep 11, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) throws against the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourth inning at Great American Ball Park. The Reds won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
To start with, I don’t actually think that trading Johnny Cueto is the best thing for the 2015 Cincinnati Reds, because they basically have no chance to win without a prime Cueto season. That said, they must move now, before December roles around, if they hope to glean maximum value from a Cueto trade.
As expected, the Reds picked up their $10-million option on Cueto a couple of days ago, which makes him an absolute steal for the moment. Next spring, he’ll be 29 years old and coming off a 20-win, 2.25 ERA season in which he led the National League in strikeouts, batters faced and hits per nine innings. He’ll also be making relative peanuts.
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That’s especially true when you consider the $150 million or so that both Jon Lester and Max Scherzer could pick up this off-season.
When you consider all this, and that Cueto will bring draft-pick compensation if he leaves his team as a free agent next season, then it’s clear he will probably never be a more valuable trade chip than he is right now. If the Reds are going to move Cueto, they need to take advantage of their situation and pull the trigger in November.
With deep-pocket clubs like the Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers all likely to bid for the top arms, Cueto would be worth his weight in trade gold. The Reds should make a pre-emptive strike now before any of the big money teams take themselves out of the trade market by committing their dollars to Scherzer or Lester.
Trading Cueto at this point could be problematic for general manager Walt Jocketty because he continues to float the notion that the Reds will contend in 2015, and, again, that will be tough without Cueto. If the GM could extract the right combination of prospects and Major Leaguers from his trade partner, though, he could hasten Cincinnati’s return to the playoffs.
If not next year, then maybe in 2016 or 2017.
Whatever he decides to do with his rotation, Jocketty needs to make his moves this month, especially if they involve Cueto.
Every day that goes by eats into the value of a potential deal.