The baseball offseason has resumed and with just one week before spring training, free agency is expected to be hectic. Many of the top pitchers are off of the market, so the attention is turning toward a former SF Giants starting pitcher.
Report: Former SF Giants hurler's market is "heating up"
On Saturday, Jon Heyman of the MLB Network confirmed that Johnny Cueto's market is beginning to take shape as many teams remain in the market for rotation help. Darren Wolfson of SKOR North added that the Minnesota Twins are one of the many suitors in the mix.
Cueto just finished a six-year, $130 million pact that he signed with San Francisco back in 2015. This included a $22 million club option for 2022 that the Giants declined, making him a free agent but he did receive a $5 million buyout.
The early returns of that deal were favorable as the veteran hurler co-anchored the rotation along with Madison Bumgarner. In 2016, he posted a 2.79 ERA, 2.95 FIP, 1.09 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, and a 4.40 SO/W ratio across 219.2 innings while earning a National League All-Star nod.
He helped the Giants squeak into the playoffs that year and put together a masterful performance against the Chicago Cubs in the playoffs. In Game 1 of the NLDS, the right-handed hurler yielded just one run on three hits with 10 strikeouts at Wrigley Field. However, that one run proved to be the difference as the Giants dropped that game by a score of 1-0 and eventually lost the series to the Cubs.
His 2016 campaign proved to be his best season in a Giants uniform as he battled injuries and ineffectiveness over the next several seasons. In total, the 36-year-old pitcher posted a 3.81 ERA in 614 innings with San Francisco.
This included a 2021 season in which he recorded a 4.08 ERA, 4.05 FIP, 1.37 WHIP, 7.7 K9, and a 3.27 SO/W ratio in 22 appearances. He proved to be a reliable back-end starter, but struggled to give the Giants length as he averaged just over 5.1 innings per start.
This was likely not the type of production that the Giants envisioned when they handed out that massive contract but that is often the risk associated with long-term deals. Durability was a factor as the veteran starter sustained a UCL tear in his pitching elbow midway through the 2018 season and battled nagging back and groin injuries last season.
That said, he can still soak up some quality innings while serving as a back-of-the-rotation type of arm. It is no surprise to see that he has such a robust market but that market likely does not include the Giants.
San Francisco solidified its rotation by adding Carlos Rodón, Alex Cobb, Alex Wood, and Anthony DeSclafani through free agency this offseason. That quartet will join Logan Webb to round out the 2022 rotation. Cueto is likely in the market for a guaranteed deal and should be able to leverage his market size for another nice payday as he enters his 15th season in the majors in 2022.