Sep 28, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) hits and RBI single as Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Chris Stewart (19) is hit by the bat in the eighth inning at Great American Ball Park. The Reds won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
Before Christmas, Johnny Cueto and his agent drew a line in the sand for the Cincinnati Reds: if the two sides could not negotiate a contract extension before the start of Spring Training, Cueto would test the free agent waters after the 2015 season. General manager Walt Jocketty appears ready to let that deadline pass, as he told Mark Sheldon today that, “We’ve been busy with other things.”
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Jocketty did go on to say that the Reds would “take a good look” at the Cueto situation, but the GM’s comments were the latest and clearest indication that Cueto will likely not be on the Riverfront in 2016.
In reality, the clock probably started ticking on Cueto’s time in Cincinnati last spring when first baseman Joey Votto went down with a quad injury. That’s when the wheels started to come off a team that had hopes of contending in the National League Central, and even though Cincy climbed back in to the race by July, Jocketty sat on his hands as the trade deadline approached.
As a result, the Reds tumbled in the second half, and Cueto watched his superb season on the mound wasted by the wasteland of injuries and subpar play around him.
It was a preview of what life would be like for Cueto if he stays in Cincinnati: if everything goes just right, the Reds might contend in any given year. If someone goes down with an injury, though, or if someone slumps to the tune of Jay Bruce’s struggles in 2014, then there will be no money to right the ship.
Big contracts to Votto, Homer Bailey, and, in this scenario, Cueto, would guarantee that. And if Cueto doesn’t perform up to the level demanded by his $25-million (or so) salary?
Well, the Reds could always call up Ben Lively as a replacement. Oh, wait.
Jocketty’s brush off today is just the latest salvo in the coming breakup between the Reds and Cueto. Mercifully, the team will likely be far enough out of contention by the trade deadline that we won’t have to watch the whole gory divorce, because Johnny will be shipped out of town.
Either way, we should enjoy Cueto’s next 20 or so starts, because they’re likely to be his last as a Red.