Often, a big contract signing will immediately show overpayment, or in some cases, the direction of the organization changes. In Cueto’s case, he’s more the latter than the former. He was signed before the 2016 season to a huge contract that still has $92M guaranteed over the nest 4 seasons and an option to make it worth as much as $109M over 5 years.
The Giants are looking to likely do some significant overhaul on their team this offseason. Most likely, ace lefty Madison Bumgarner won’t be available, and Jeff Samardzija is not going to be worth the contract he’s got (nor is he really the “big acquisition” we’re looking for in this post). That makes Cueto the most intriguing option for the Twins, even if it means that they have to eat most of the contract.
Even with his season being a bit more rough in the raw numbers with a 4.52 ERA in 2017, the underlying numbers did show a higher walk rate, but he also saw a BABIP roughly 40 points higher than his career average. The only other notable difference was a surprising added tick of velocity to his curve, but since he only throws the pitch roughly 2.5% of the time, that should not affect him going forward.
Cueto’s rough 2017 and big contract should allow for a lesser trade package than his quality stuff should require in the trade market, though the Twins would likely lessen the prospect cost of the deal by eating more of the finances. The Giants may actually prefer to take on cash to increase the prospect load they get back to help their organization’s rebuild. Cueto does have an opt-out after this season, so the team would want to ensure Cueto is certainly not opting out in the offseason. If he does, he could be a target in the previous slide at the right price.
After a half-decade as one of the elite starters in the entire league, the Boston Red Sox signed David Price to a huge contract. before the 2016 season. Price was coming off a season where he led the American League in ERA and finished second in the Cy Young award, and he was one of the big free agent prizes of that offseason.
After a rough start to 2016, Price finished the year leading the league in innings pitched. From July 1 on in the season, Price was very solid, though his won-loss was actually worse, as he posted a 3.33 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and a 25/108 BB/K ratio over 18 starts. That had many expecting him to get back to his previously dominant self in 2017.
Instead, Price fought through injuries all season, ending the season in the bullpen for the Red Sox in the playoff as there was not time for him to return in the season to get stretched out after the time he had missed from injury.
That rough start to his huge contract could lead to a possible lighter trade price, but one consideration should be the fact that Price does have an opt-out after 2018. He very well could end up not staying around past 2018, which would have to be considered.
The other issue is that the Red Sox are not likely headed into a rebuild, and they’ll want to get one guy (at least) who is MLB ready as part of the deal, meaning the target could be top pitchers like Fernando Romero or Stephen Gonsalves, who are on the step of the majors and two of the top 5 prospects in the Twins organization.