Unless contract extension talks take place, Johnny Cueto is in line to opt out of his contract after the season.

It’s an odd-numbered year, but no one expected the San Francisco Giants to be basically out of the playoff race before June was even over. Selling at the trade deadline looks certain, with an aging roster, and starting pitcher Johnny Cueto has a chance to be on the move. On that note, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported this week that Cueto is expected to opt-out of his contract after the season.

Cueto signed a six-year, $130 million deal with the Giants before the 2016 season, and posted an All-Star season in his first year with the team (18-5, 2.79 ERA and 198 strikeouts over 219.2 innings). He’s due $84 million from 2018-2021, with a $5 million buyout of a $22 million club option for 2022.

Cueto’s overall numbers this year (4.42 ERA, 8.7 K/9 over 15 starts) were surely affected by early blister issues. But he has gone at least six innings in seven of his last nine starts, with three earned runs or less allowed in four of his last five outings.

Heyman also suggested Cueto would listen to an extension offer, in lieu of opting out, which is not shocking. But it’s also not likely to happen from the Giants’ end. As far as they’re concerned, Cueto is already under contract through 2021 unless he makes the decision to opt out. The option to bail on the deal is not theirs after this season, and any extension would surely have to take Cueto deeper into his late 30s. The current commitment already has a good chance to look very bad at the end, when Cueto will be 35 years old with lots of mileage on his arm in 2021.

A public report Cueto will opt out after the season could do the Giants a big favor over the next five weeks. Essentially being a deadline rental will put a lid on any return in a trade, but any teams seeking a starter may have greater interest if the long-term money commitment is out the window.


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