The San Diego Padres are once again linked to another big name in major league baseball. This time is is Johnny Cueto from the Cincinnati Reds. Cueto is in the last year of his contract and will surely test the free agent market come November. The Reds are not going to be able to afford him as they are already invested heavily in Homer Bailey and Joey Votto. Votto is owed $206 million until the 2023 season.
Some 20 or so scouts were on hand Thursday to watch Cueto pitch against the San Francisco Giants. Padres senior advisor Randy Smith was in attendance according to Drayton Dailey News. The other team named in particular was the Toronto Blue Jays. The Reds are 6 1/2 games behind the division leading St Louis Cardinals. They are still in the race for a wild card spot, so I am not sure how much they truly do intend to deal Cueto as of yet.
Would Johnny Cueto be of interest to the Padres? Yes, very much so… as you could call Cueto a true ace. Not to discredit James Shields, as I am very happy with what he brings to the team. Cueto, however can be flat-out dominant at times. He in a playoff series would be at tough task for any team to handle. This season Cueto is 3-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 58 innings for the Reds. Last season was Cueto’s best in the major leagues as he finished second in Cy Young voting to Clayton Kershaw. Cueto was 20-9 last season with a 2.25 ERA and a 0.960 WHIP in a league high 243.2 innings. Talk about a workman like effort.
Now what would it take for Cueto and are the Reds really serious about dealing him? For them to move Cueto, they are essentially washing their hands of him. He is a lifelong Red and it will be difficult for them to move on from him. You really have to wonder what they were thinking when they inked Homer Bailey long-term (6 years-$105 million) and failed to do the same for Cueto. That Bailey contract is horrendous, as the team is committed to him until the 2020 season. Bailey is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery. He is not expected to pitch again until the 2016 season at the earliest.
The Padres farm system is a little low on prospects, but the names of Hunter Renfroe and Rymer Liriano could be of interest to them. The Reds play in one of the best hitting ballparks in the league and a young slugging outfielder could be tantalizing to them. I don’t know if the Padres would be willing to move Renfroe for a player that is a rental. Cueto will be a free agent and his price tag is likely to be very hefty. The acquisition of Cueto would help the Padres, but would it be a difference maker in the team succeeding this season?
The Reds could also use some starting pitching, so names like Robbie Erlin or Odrisamer Despaigne could be of interest. The addition of Cueto to the Padres rotation would be huge and in all likelihood vault the Padres into the playoffs. My main concern is once the Reds show a strong indication of dealing him, other teams with better prospects will sweep the Reds right off their feet.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals are all in the search for starting pitching. All three clubs have strong farm systems, especially the Dodgers. If the Padres want Cueto the price tag might just be too expensive for them. If the two clubs wanted to pull off a mega-deal, the name Billy Hamilton would be of huge interest to the Padres. A center fielder with inhuman speed would be fantastic to jump start the Padres offense. Hamilton is 24 and under team control cheaply for the next five seasons. His price tag would be ridiculously expensive.
The fact the Padres are scouting Cueto and made a run at Josh Hamilton means the team is ready to make a deal. There are many different ways that A.J. Preller can go with a deal, we will just have to sit back and see where he goes. It has never been more exciting to be a Padres fan, the team intends to compete and that is something we as fans haven’t felt in quite some time. GO PADRES!