Coming off a bad season, Johnny Cueto will not be opting out of his deal with the San Francisco Giants.
The San Francisco Giants had a rough 2017 campaign, with a National League-worst 64-98 record that left them an even 40 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West. Johnny Cueto made just 25 starts and pitched just 147.1 innings on his way to a 4.52 ERA, a 1.45 WHIP and a career-worst 1.34 home runs allowed per nine innings.
Cueto was very good in 2016, his first season with the Giants, with a 18-5 record and a 2.79 ERA as well as five complete games over 32 starts (219.2 innings). So like most of his teammates, this past season could be considered a blip on the radar.
Cueto signed a six-year, $130 million deal with the Giants in December 2015, with an option for him to opt out after the first two years. That option obviously exists now, but Cueto will not be exercising it.
Cueto will stay in on the final four years of his deal, worth a total of $84 million, with a $22 million team option for 2022 that carries a $5 million buyout. There’s no way Cueto could have replicated that kind of money on the open market this winter, even theoretically as one of the top starting pitchers available. So it was a real no-brainer to stay with the Giants.
Cueto will be 32 years old before next season starts, which is not necessarily old, but he has a lot of mileage on his arm (nearly 1,800 major league innings). Add in a bump up in his walk rate (3.2 BB/9; 2.6 BB/9 for his career) and drop in ground ball rate (39.4 percent; 50.2 percent in 2016) this past year, and there are chinks in Cueto’s armor to note going forward.
The back end of big free agent contracts for starting pitchers often bring very diminished returns for teams. Time will tell if Cueto is headed down that road of serious decline, or if 2017 was an injury-driven anomaly. But either way, he was smart to not leave close to $90 million on the table.