Posted on August 2, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine

San Francisco Giants Johnny Cueto

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Johnny Cueto is officially done for the season, and he may be taking the San Francisco Giants’ playoff hopes with him. The club announced Wednesday night that Cueto will undergo Tommy John surgery on Thursday. The surgery will keep Cueto out for the rest of 2018 and could cause him to miss most or all of the 2019 season as well.

Cueto’s 2018 campaign began with so much promise. He was undoubtedly the best pitcher in baseball the first month of the season. Five starts into the season, Cueto had a 0.84 ERA. However, he was sent to the DL in early May due to elbow inflammation. He ended up missing more than two months before returning in early July. At that point, the Giants were hopeful that his return could help them make a playoff push the second half of the season.

But things have not worked out that way for Cueto, In four starts since his return, he’s 0-2 with a 6.86 ERA. He returned to the DL earlier this week with an elbow strain. It was at that point that Tommy John started to become a possibility. The need for surgery has now been confirmed, a devastating blow for both Cueto and the Giants.

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From a long-term perspective, the Giants owe Cueto $17 million per year for the next three seasons. He then has a $22 million option for the 2022 season. There’s a good chance San Francisco won’t get anything out of that investment in 2019. After that, there’s no guarantee the now 32-year old Cueto will be able to bounce back from surgery and be the same caliber of pitcher he’s been in the past.

“If there’s anything we know about Johnny, it’s that he’s a hard worker,” said Giants GM Bobby Evans, expressing optimism that Cueto will come back from the surgery just as strong as before.

Of course, it’s also a crushing blow to the Giants in the short term. Even amidst his struggles in July, the Giants had hope that Cueto would come around and pitch well down the stretch. That is no longer on the table.

Madison Bumgarner is still leading San Francisco’s rotation alongside fellow veteran Derek Holland. But the rest of the team’s starters are young and still trying to find their way in the big leagues. Youngsters like Andrew Suarez and Dereck Rodriguez will have to take on more prominent roles.

“We’ve had guys step up all year,” said a hopeful Evans.

As it stands, the Giants are five games back in the NL West. However, they have to jump over three teams to reach the top of the division. They are just five games out of a wild-card spot. However, there are eight teams within five games of those two spots.

The Giants did not make any moves leading up to Tuesday’s trade deadline. That would seem to indicate that they don’t view themselves as serious contenders. Barring a sudden reversal of fortune, San Francisco’s playoff hopes in 2018 appear to be fading fast. Cueto being lost to Tommy John surgery only adds to the growing belief that the Giants will miss out on the postseason for the second straight year.

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