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
Cincinnati Reds ace Johnny Cueto has watched all of the free agent money being thrown around to pitchers this winter, and he wants his. Now.
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Cueto’s agent, Bryce Dixon, told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports today that the fireballer will give the Reds until Opening Day to come up with a lucrative contract extension, and then, if nothing is in place, he will set his sights on free agency, too. With those parameters in place, it’s clear that now is the best time to trade Cueto.
By drawing a line in the sand already, Cueto is telling the Reds that he expects to be paid like Jon Lester will be, like Max Scherzer will be. If you look at their stats from 2014 and their relative ages, then that stance makes sense, because Cueto pitched better than either of his fellow aces this past year.
While Cueto has been excellent for a few years, though, he has not been particularly durable. Only once before 2014 did he pitch in as many as 200 innings, and career-high usage at age 28 often leads to a backslide in the coming years. Just a year removed from a lat-strained 11-appearance season, Cueto is no sure bet to toe the rubber on a regular basis all of next season.
And yet, he’s asking the Reds to pretend that his 2015 will be just as good as his 2014 season was, and to pay him accordingly for the next six or seven years. It would be a huge gamble for a team that is already smarting from long-term deals to Joey Votto and Homer Bailey, and it’s the kind of strong-arm tactic that can strain the relationship between player and team.
Cueto and Dixon are doing their best to cash in, now, on Cueto’s big season, and they’ll either get their cash from the Reds, or they’ll SAY they’ll take their ball and head toward next winter. More likely, Cueto lands with another club sooner rather than later.
After all, if the Reds are out of contention in July and Cueto won’t talk to them about an extension at that point, then he’ll certainly be traded. The ultimatum makes a trade a matter of when, not if.