That the Boston Red Sox want to acquire a frontline “ace” starting pitcher this offseason is not exactly a secret — and now the popular site MLB Trade Rumors has predicted exactly how that will happen. The prediction has made news throughout the Major League Baseball blogosphere on Monday.
According to the MLB Trade Rumors survey of seven of its own in-house experts, the Red Sox will end up signing Kansas City Royals World Series hero Johnny Cueto, who until last season’s trade deadline had spent the first seven-and-half years of his career as a key member if the Cincinnati Reds starting rotation and won 20 games for the Reds in 2014 with a sparkling 2.25 ERA.
Cueto (pictured above) was 7-6 with a 2.62 ERA in 19 starts for the Reds in 2015 before Cincinnati dealt him at the deadline to Kansas City. But, Cueto faltered in the American League, mustering a 4.76 ERA in 13 more starts with a 4-7 record.
Perhaps, more importantly, his FIP was close to his ERA, with a 4.06 number. FIP stands for Fielding Independent Pitching, and basically provides a measure of how much defense contributes to a pitcher’s ERA. A pitcher whose FIP is considerably lower than his ERA would be expected to improve his ERA number on a team with better fielding.
But, the narrow difference between the two stats for Cueto with the Royals would appear to show that what the American League saw with the Dominican righty was more or less the “real” Johnny Cueto. His defense did not let him down. He simply did not pitch very well.
Cueto made his biggest mark for Kansas City in a single game when he fired a complete game two-hitter in Game Two of the 2015 World Series against the New York Mets. Watch highlights of that game and Cueto’s standout performance in the video above.
Red Sox new President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski is known to think highly of Blue Jays lefty David Price, whom Dombrowski already acquired once, when the 59-year-old longtime baseball executive was running the Detroit Tigers. But the 30-year-old Price is believed to be in the market for a contract in the neighborhood of $210 million over seven years — meaning the Red Sox would be paying Price $30 million when he is 37 years old and presumably well past his peak performance capabilities.
Even under new management, the Red Sox ownership have long been, and likely remain, extremely wary of awarding expensive, long-term contracts to pitchers who are statistically likely to be on the downside of their careers in the final years of their deals.
What will the cost to the Red Sox actually be for Cueto? Five of the seven MLB Trade Rumors experts in the survey agreed Boston is likely to ink the stocky, 5-foot-11, 220-pound fireballer — who will turn 30 just before the opening of Spring Training in 2016 — to a contract for five years, totaling $115 million, an average of $23 million per year.
Cueto — in addition to being on the wrong side of 30 and despite his inspiring World Series outing — appeared frustrated by pitching the American League, where his strikeout-per-nine-innings rate sank to 6.2, his lowest number since 2010, and his 1.451 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) hit a career high of 1.451.
An additional factor working against Cueto would be his new ballpark, if he actually signed with the Red Sox. According to the ESPN Major League Park Factor statistics, Fenway Park is the fourth worst pitcher’s park in the 2015 season, in terms of runs allowed — a condition that will likely only increase Cueto’s frustration with pitching in the AL.
The fact Dombrowski is looking to bring an “ace” starting pitcher to the Red Sox is more than mere rumor. The new Boston baseball ops boss has said himself that his top priority is obtaining a “horse” to lead the Red Sox rotation. Will that ace be Johnny Cueto? MLB Trade Rumors says yes, but the actual numbers on Cueto say that bringing him to Fenway at a price tag topping $20 million per year would not be a good idea.
[Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com] [Photo by David J. Phillip/Associated Press]