The San Francisco Giants will need to trade Johnny Cueto this season.
That said, the Giants are approaching a deadline of sorts to trade away the starting pitching before he achieves 10-and-5 rights.
Ten-and-5 rights refer to the qualifications needed for a player to obtain veto power over any potential trade. To qualify for this, he needs at least 10 years of service time, including five years with the current team.
Cueto already has accumulated more than 10 years of service time, but now he is approaching five consecutive seasons with the Giants. San Francisco signed the right-handed hurler to a six-year, $130 million contract in December of 2015.
This included an opt-out clause after the 2017 season, which Cueto chose not to exercise.
Since inking that contract, the 34-year-old has posted a 3.51 ERA, 3.79 FIP, and 1.220 WHIP across 436 frames with the Orange and Black.
Despite numerous trips to the injured list, including a year-long foray on the shelf after undergoing Tommy John surgery to repair a UCL injury, Cueto has proven to be an effective starter when healthy.
After spending much of the 2019 season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, the longtime Cincinnati Reds hurler made four starts down the stretch. The results were not nearly as important as the fact that Cueto appeared healthy while bringing his jovial personality to the mound. Still, he mixed in a couple of good starts as well:
Despite this, the Giants may be inclined to move Cueto before the end of this season as he would achieve 10-and-5 rights.
The Giants have experience with a player on the cusp of reaching 10-and-5 rights. Though, the Giants were on the other side of this when they acquired third baseman, Evan Longoria, from the Tampa Bay Rays.
At the time, the power-hitting third baseman was just shy of 10 years of service time. If he had remained with the Rays for the start of the 2018 season, he would have achieved 10-and-5 rights after just two games.
With that, Longoria would have obtained veto power over any trade proposal with the only organization he had ever known.
At the time, the third baseman had five years remaining on his deal, so the Rays anxiously tried to unload Longoria as quickly as possible. The Giants did Tampa Bay a huge favor by taking on the contract.
Now, Cueto is in a similar position as Longoria was just a couple of seasons ago. If Cueto remains with the Giants by the end of this season, then he will hold veto power in potentially his final season at Oracle Park.
San Francisco has already had difficultly in moving many of its underperforming contracts due to no-trade or partial no-trade clauses.
With two years and $43.5 million remaining on Cueto’s contract, the 10-and-5 rights would present another obstacle. Adding to this complexity, the pitcher’s contract also includes a team option for 2022 with a $5 million buyout.
The Giants do not necessarily need to move Cueto’s contract as the team is comfortably under the Collective Bargaining Tax (CBT). However, they can accelerate the rebuild by moving as many expensive contracts as possible off of the books.
They will not be able to move all of their bloated contracts before the end of the 2021 season, but they should keep all options open. After 2021, the contracts for Brandon Belt ($17M per year) and Brandon Crawford ($15M per year) are set to expire. Additionally, San Francisco holds team options on both Cueto and Buster Posey for the 2022 season.
Assuming the MLB season resumes at some point in 2020, San Francisco will be motivated to move Cueto sooner rather than later.