SF Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto may be pitching in the Dominican Winter League for the first time in over a decade.
In a report by Juan Arturo Recio of ESPN, SF Giants starter Johnny Cueto will be pitching for the Estrellas Orientales of the Dominican Winter League. While Cueto has a much stronger reputation than most current MLB players in the league, he’s also struggled to regain his form since returning from Tommy John Surgery at the end of 2019.
The Giants organization has a lot of connections to Estrellas Orientales so Cueto obviously should see some familiar faces. José Alguacil is the manager of the team and served as the Giants first-base coach from 2017-2019. Estrellas’ general manager, Pablo Peguero, is a longtime international scout in the Giants organization and is currently the Latin American Director of Baseball Operations for the team. Giants relief-pitching Raffi Vizcaino is already set to be on the Orientales Opening Day roster too.
Alguacil was set to manage San Francisco’s Double-A affiliate, Richmond Flying Squirrels, in 2020 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, where he managed in 2015 before managing the Sacramento River Cats in 2016. He’ll likely return to the organization’s managerial ranks next season.
Contrary to Recio’s original report, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi told reporters that the deal is not quite done yet. Still, given the familiarity between the organizations, it’s hard to foresee a deal falling through.
Cueto was one of the best pitchers in baseball from 2008-2016 and was a pivotal piece of the Giants 2016 playoff team. However, a blister hampered him the entire 2017 season before Tommy John surgery limited him to just 13 starts from 2018-19. In his first “full” season back from injury, Cueto recorded the worst ERA (5.40) of his career.
Set to be 35-years old in February, Cueto is owed $21 million next season with a $22 million club option for 2022. Barring something exceptional next season, the Giants will very likely pay Cueto a $5 million buyout to make him a free agent after next season.
The SF Giants have a lot of questions remaining in their starting rotation. If Johnny Cueto could find some of his old self at the Dominican Winter League, it could go a long way towards helping them compete in 2021. Most importantly, we might get to see some shimmies on video from official game action soon.