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Arizona Diamondbacks Free Agent Target: Johnny Cueto

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Free Agency began last Friday in Major League Baseball and General Managers are beginning to discuss players with their agents at the GM Meetings in Boca Raton, Florida. Here at Venom Strikes we will profile which free agents are good fits for the Diamondbacks this offseason.


The Arizona Diamondbacks have the money to spend and needs to fill. Talk is cheap, folks. It’s time for Dave Stewart, DeJon Watson, and Tony La Russa to take action and make a splash on the free agent market.

The D-backs improved in 2015 winning 15 more games compared with 2014, and now this team is ready to take the next step and chase the postseason, particularly with the two wild card team system in place making it easier for teams with 88-90 wins to get in. You know what they all say: once your in who knows what can happen but you have to get in first!

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The Diamondbacks have several needs this offseason including at the catcher position and possibly in the bullpen, but the one thing that held the team back last year was the starting rotation. The D-backs scored the most runs in the National League, but the rotation just never found any consistency.

2016 is perfect year to sign a free agent starter, because the market is loaded with them.

With that in mind I and the rest of the Venom Strikes team will take a look at many free agent starters over the days and weeks ahead and determine if the D-backs should go after them.

Let’s start with someone I think could fall to the D-backs: Johnny Cueto.

The Market: There seems to be conflicting viewpoints on what exactly Cueto’s value is on the free agent market.

Some in the industry believe that Cueto’s diminishing numbers with the Kansas City Royals after being traded from the Cincinnati Reds should be a concern and should lower his financial value.

It is true that he pitched to a 4.76 ERA with KC in 13 starts compared with a 2.62 ERA with the Reds, but adjusting from the National League to the American League takes time especially in the middle of the season. However, he proved his worth when he threw a great Game Five of the ALDS against the Astros when it mattered most, and his complete game outing in the second game of the World Series was really nice.

Jon Morosi of Fox Sports believes that he will still get a great payday after Zack Greinke and David Price sign.

"“One general manager observed this week that Cueto and Jordan Zimmermann are regarded by the industry as occupying a tier immediately below that of Price and Greinke. Thus, it won’t be a surprise if Cueto and Zimmermann wait for Price and/or Greinke to sign massive contracts, then calibrate their asking prices accordingly.”"

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports thinks the same way, and projects Cueto to get a 6-year deal worth $144 million dollars.

Pros:

No matter what certain people will say about Cueto’s inconsistent performance with the Royals, he proved himself in games that matter the most and that ultimately proves two things about his ability:

  1. He can pitch on the biggest stage.
  2. He can still throw 96 mph and above.

The Diamondbacks are in need of a veteran ace to lead the team’s young rotation and of all the options out there, Cueto might just be the best option financially for the team.

Here is one stat to keep in mind: Cueto ranks second in the Majors only behind Clayton Kershaw in adjusted ERA among pitchers who have thrown at least 800 innings over the past five seasons. Adjusted ERA measures a pitcher’s ERA according to the ballpark that the pitcher threw in. Considering the majority of those years were spent pitching in Great American Ballpark, a hitter’s paradise, that is impressive and it shows he can pitch at Chase Field.

Cueto is also 29, younger than Price and Greinke.

Cons:

His inconsistency as of late is a concern when you consider that he is expected to get a hefty payday. The D-backs should at least be slightly concerned and I have to wonder if Cueto’s recent inconsistency is worth that kind of money. Stewart has also indicated that he isn’t willing to give out long term deals which the ace type free agent pitchers will get. So either he wants to sign a guy like Mike Leake, or they will look to make a trade.

Cueto also does have an injury history and that always comes in to play when you are talking about the kind of money he is expected to get paid.

Next: Arizona Diamondbacks Prospect Review: Alex Young

Bottom Line

I think the D-backs should go after Cueto. It seems as though he has fallen right into the team’s lap, he is consistent and he is durable.

The D-backs need a veteran ace that can lead a young staff and he is a guy that can do that. Plus he is still relatively young and he doesn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.  The D-backs want to make a splash and this would be making a big one while fixing a need and not having to sacrifice the farm system.

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