Posted on November 5, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The San Francisco Giants are getting four more years of Johnny Cueto. The 31-year old starting pitcher had the right to opt-out of the six-year, $130 million deal he signed with the Giants prior to the 2016 season. However, he has decided to forgo that option and stay with the Giants. Cueto will honor the final four years and $84 million left on his deal, keeping him in San Francisco through the 2021 season. The Giants also have a $22 million option on Cueto for the 2022 season.
“It was a big decision, so he gave it serious consideration,” Cueto’s agent Bryce Dixon told media outlets. “But he’s happy to be on the Giants as he has a tremendous amount of respect for the organization and confidence they can rebound to their winning form.”
With Cueto staying with the Giants, there appears to be a slim number of frontline starting pitchers available on the free agent market this winter. Masahiro Tanaka also decided to stay with his team rather than hit the open market. Without those two joining the free agent market, Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta are the top starters available with a significant drop-off from there.
Of course, while Tanaka’s decision to stay with the Yankees was a little surprising, Cueto’s choice was not. After going 18-5 with a 2.79 ERA during his first year in San Francisco in 2016, Cueto took a step back this past season. Cueto was limited to 25 starts after struggling with blisters the second half of the season. He ended up going 8-8 with a 4.52 ERA. Coming off that kind of season, there was no guarantee that he could have done any better than the four years and $84 million left on his current deal.
The Giants likely have mixed emotions about Cueto deciding to stay with the team. If Cueto’s drop in performance this past season is a sign of things to come, he won’t be worth the annual salary he’s set to make over the remainder of his contract. The Giants also could have used the money on Cueto’s deal to upgrade their offense this winter.
On the other hand, this past season was just the second time Cueto’s ERA exceeded 3 since 2010. He also pitched well in September after returning from the DL. There’s every chance that Cueto will be able to bounce back in 2018 and pitch like the top-of-the-rotation starter he’s been throughout his career.
Also, had Cueto decided to opt-out, the Giants may have been forced to sign a starting pitcher in free agency. But with Cueto staying in San Francisco, the Giants have a proven no. 2 starter behind ace Madison Bumgarner. The Giants also have Jeff Samardzija and Matt Moore, giving them four quality starters when everyone is healthy. As it stands, Ty Blach and Chris Stratton are likely to compete with prospects Tyler Bedee and Andrew Suarez for the final spot in the rotation.
Financially, the Giants may have been in a little better shape had Cueto decided to hit the open market. But having Cueto does solidify their rotation for next season. If Cueto and others can have a bounce-back year in 2018, the Giants may be able to have one as well.