The 2017 MLB season has certainly been a fun one as we close in on the All-Star Break in a few weeks. Teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees have been playing better than expectations. Meanwhile, teams like the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants have not quite lived up to the hype.
As a result, we are in for an interesting trade deadline season. Two of the teams mentioned above are going to be on opposite sides then I would have guessed in Spring Training. Those two teams are the Yankees and Giants. And it just so happens, those two could connect on a deal for a former Cincinnati Reds’ pitcher. His name, Johnny Cueto.
Let’s start with the New York Yankees.
Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, among others, have been raking this season. They are top three in many major offensive stats in the entire league. Their overall pitching numbers are even pretty darn good, as they are in the top five in both ERA and WHIP. As a result, the team entered Wednesday with a 41-34 record, which puts them neck and neck with the Boston Red Sox for the AL East lead.
Currently, they have a handful of injuries on the offensive side of the ball. Starlin Castro and Matt Holiday both recently hit the DL. Third base is clearly their weakest position with the bats. Making a deal or two for bats is not out of the question, but it is not the team’s greatest need.
That comes in the form of a top starting pitcher. For a team to be taken seriously in the playoffs, at least two solid starting arms are needed. Right now, one could argue they have no one who can be considered to be that type of stud.
Michael Pineda is a guy who has tremendous stuff, but has never developed into the ace he was supposed to be. He has had his moments this season, but at the end of the day, he is still sporting a 4.12 ERA and 1.23 WHIP.
Luis Severino could be seen as one of those top two arms. Currently pitching to a 3.15 ERA and 1.07 WHIP while striking out 107 batters in less than 95 innings, he has been nothing short of tremendous. But at 23, one has to wonder if he can go the distance and into the playoffs at this pace.
The man who was supposed to be the ace, Masahiro Tanaka, has just been down right bad. Yankees fans simply have no faith when he takes to the hill right now, with his 5.74 ERA being example reason number one. CC Sabathia was pitching decent, but is currently on the DL with a hamstring injury. Factor in how he’s pitched the last few years, he simply is not the type of pitcher the team should be relying on come playoff time to be one of their studs.
Jordan Montgomery has been serviceable in rookie campaign, but not at ace level. So if the Bronx Bombers want to be taken seriously come October, they are going to need to add someone who can be that postseason workhorse.
Enter Johnny Cueto and the Giants. The Giants have been a total bust this season. Expected to be one of the top two teams in the NL West, the club instead sit at 30-51, good for last in the NL West. Yes, even behind the San Diego Padres. So they will certainly be selling come July.
As for Cueto, he has made it sound like he will be opting out of his contract at the end of this season. As a result, he would be considered a rental player on the trade market. This then begs the question, what kind of season is he having?
Well, to be honest, not a great one. Cueto, who is now 31, is simply having an ok type of season. His 4.20 ERA, 1.29 WHIP are nothing special, just like his 91.6 mph average on his fastball. So if he is having a down season, why in the world would the Yankees want to go after him?
Well for starters, when you put all of those factors together, his price via the trade will certainly be down. The Giants simply have no leverage in trade negotiations. With Cueto set to opt out, the Giants will want to get at least something back for him.
As a result, the Yankees should not have to part with any major prospects to acquire Cueto. Building a package around more mid-level prospects, potentially ones in the lower minors with higher upside, should do the trick. Outfielder Estevan Florial, who is currently playing for the Single-A Charleston Riverdogs is one potential name. Second baseman Nick Solak, is another prospect in the low minors hitting the ball extremely well this season.
Now, the reason Cueto’s name came to mind, despite his down season, is his past. Not only has he proven himself as an ace caliber arm through entire seasons, but he also has the postseason experience.
Cueto has had a history of being inconsistent throughout seasons. But he has also flashed Cy Young level potential, finishing as the runner-up back in 2014 with Cincy. He flashed some of those Cy Young level skills back in the 2016 season, following a 2015 season where he helped the Kansas City Royals win the World Series.
In that 2015 World Series, Cueto would spin a complete game shutout against the New York Mets. He would allow two hits and walk three in the game. It is that type of experience, paired with the history of being an ace, that the Yankees could use.
So yes, he is certainly a gamble. Given how he is pitching, he is no guarantee to be the ace the Yankees seek. But, if the price is right, this is certainly a gamble the Yanks should be willing to make. If Brian Cashman calls and the Giants are asking way above market value, then they move on. But given the Giants position, I am willing to guess the asking price won’t be too crazy.
What do you think? Is Johnny Cueto a good gamble for the New York Yankees? Or is he simply past his prime? Tell us what you think in the comments!