Dodgers Miss Out On Johnny Cueto


The Dodgers will leave free agency without any of the three top available starters.

This was supposed to be one of the best free-agent pitching classes in recent history, with three legit aces available for only cash. I think I wrote that it would be more likely for the Dodgers to come away with two of the three than to come away with none at all.

Today, the worst case scenario came through, as the final domino fell.

After missing out on David Price and Zack Greinke, I figured Johnny Cueto was going to be a Dodger. Instead, he’s going up north to San Francisco.

Price and Greinke signed astronomical contracts, and it’s not entirely hard to see why the Dodgers passed on them. Price’s contract topped Clayton Kershaw‘s in terms of AAV, and Greinke’s technically topped both, even though much of it is deferred. Price was probably the most sure-thing of the three free agents, as Greinke is old and his contract will pay him over $30M in his age-37 season and Cueto has had more than his fair share of arm issues.

Nov 1, 2015; New York City, NY, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Johnny Cueto holds the Commissioners Trophy in the clubhouse after defeating the New York Mets to win game five of the World Series at Citi Field. The Royals win the World Series four games to one. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

This contract seems extremely Cueto friendly, as I can’t recall seeing a premier player get an opt-out after two years. This is still not exactly a mega-deal, and the Dodgers must have really seen something to not top the offer.

I’ve been back and fourth about whether I wanted the Dodgers to sign Cueto or not. When healthy, he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball, His ERA-, which measures their ERA taking their teams’ home ballpark into account, is the second best in baseball over the last five seasons (h/t @danielbrim). He started 32 games this season for the Reds and Royals after starting 34 the season before, but had a few arm scares and isn’t exactly a health guarantee. If he stays healthy, he’s a great signing (for two years when he opts out). If he gets hurt, this is the type of move that can doom a team (especially when he doesn’t exercise the opt out and stays making over $25M/year).

Under normal circumstances, I would be nonplussed by this move. The Giants added a very good pitcher that may or may not work out. However, this offseason has been far from “normal”, as the Dodgers lack of activity is concerning. There’s obviously still a lot of time left, but watching two of the three best available free agent pitchers go to division rivals hurts. There are still two months until pitchers and catchers report, but if the Dodgers take the team they have right now to Spring Training, panic will be slightly more justified.

The silence is perhaps the most torturous part of this, as since the Aroldis Chapman trade may or may not have fallen through, the Dodgers have been absolutely silent in the rumor mill. It bears repeating that there is still a ton of time in the offseason and by this time next week Chapman and Jose Fernandez could be Dodgers and we will all look back at the panic laughing.