From 2016 through 2021, Johnny Cueto was an entertaining - and sometimes standout - member of the SF Giants' starting rotation. With his hat perpetually perched atop his trademark dreadlocks, Cueto would shimmy and shake, hesitate and quick pitch in an effort to throw off the timing of the batters he faced.
Now, Cueto is taking his unique style to a new organization.
Following the expiration of his six-year, $130-million deal with the Giants, Cueto went onto the free agent market for the first time since after winning the 2015 World Series with the Kansas City Royals. Once the MLB lockout came to an end with the players and owners agreeing to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Cueto began to garner interest from teams looking to add depth to their rotations.
In late-March, Mike Rodriguez, a reporter for Univision Sports, tweeted that Cueto was nearing an agreement with the Minnesota Twins. That deal didn't happen, leaving the right-hander without a team entering April.
Finally, late on April 4, Rodriguez and The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported that Cueto had a minor league deal with the Chicago White Sox.
The SF Giants and White Sox essentially traded starting pitchers
Not quite a month earlier, the White Sox had lost out on bringing back their 2021 ace, Carlos Rodon - whom the Giants inked to a two-year deal. As a minor-league signee Cueto obviously doesn't directly fill Rodon's spot, but he provides depth to a White Sox team that expects to contend for a playoff spot in 2022 at least - and possibly a World Series berth. Chicago also lost an expected member of their rotation, Lance Lynn, to a knee injury just days before they signed Cueto.
Originally signed by the Cincinnati Reds out of the Dominican Republic in 2004, Cueto reached the Major Leagues in 2008. After putting up ERAs above 3.50 each of his first three years, Cueto hit his stride. From 2011 through 2015, the righty had a sub-3.00 ERA each year - though he missed time with injuries in 2011 and 2013.
Cueto's best season was his final full campaign in Cincinnati, 2014. That year, the righty tied for the league lead in starts and won 20 games with a 2.25 ERA. His innings pitched and strikeout numbers were also best in the Senior Circuit, and he finished second in NL Cy Young voting.
In 2015, Cueto made 19 starts for the Reds before being dealt to the Kansas City Royals. Despite a 4.76 ERA in 13 regular-season starts, Cueto helped the team to their first World Series title since 1985. In his only Fall Classic appearance he pitched a complete game with just one run allowed.
Cueto immediately made an impact upon signing with the Giants before 2016, going 18-5 with a 2.79 ERA and league-leading five complete games while making his second All-Star team. Things went downhill beginning in 2017 with a 4.52 ERA, and after nine starts in 2018 he went on the shelf with an injury requiring Tommy John surgery. After making a full slate of 12 starts in the shortened 2020 season, Cueto was on and off the Injured List in 2021, making 21 starts and his only career relief appearance.