The pessimist in me had the title of this written without the phrase “Opening Day” in it. The optimist in me added said phrase, since I do suppose there’s still the outside chance the Cincinnati Reds play so incredibly well through the first three months of the 2023 season that they’ll be looking to add a veteran starting pitcher for a playoff push down the stretch.
Anyway, Johnny Cueto - former Cincinnati Red and a pitcher connected with rejoining them all winter via trade rumor - has signed to pitch for the Miami Marlins for the upcoming season. Many had the news, including MLB Network contributor Craig Mish.
Free Agent pitcher Johnny Cueto is in agreement with the Miami Marlins, source confirms. Cueto is guaranteed 8.5 million dollars in the agreement per sources.— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) January 10, 2023
2023 $6 million dollars
2024 $10.5 club option (2.5 million dollar buyout)
The Marlins, who are both rebuilding and actively shopping some of their younger starting pitchers in hopes they can cash-in on them as trade chips, are betting on Cueto’s continued resurgence in 2023 - both to help eat IP for them, and to likely be a good trade chip in his own right come the July trade deadline. For that, they guaranteed the veteran righty $8.5 million in the structured deal, though moving him at the deadline would obviously mean they’d end up sharing much of that commitment with anyone who acquires him.
Thus was the scenario facing the Reds and Cueto. With each of Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, Justin Dunn, and Connor Overton incredibly light on career IP and flush with repeated injuries in recent years, the Reds could desperately use a pitcher on whom them can count every fifth day to eat 5-6 IP and, in an ideal world, pitch well enough to be a good trade chip come July. The pitching version of Brandon Drury and Tommy Pham last year, in other words, though last season’s abject disaster of Mike Minor may well have scared them off of that concept. Instead, it’s looking more and more like veteran reliever Luis Cessa is instead going to be tasked with being a starter again, and idea that makes me want to throw up my hands and look up when the first NFL game is for the 2023-2024 season.
They may still look to find someone in that role, though with Cueto off the board the free agent starting market grows increasingly thin. Chris Archer, maybe? Zack Greinke? Old friend Chase Anderson, or old foe Michael Wacha? Or, like the addition of Mike Minor last year, the Reds could pursue an addition through a low-profile trade, though the attractive options there that wouldn’t cost much in terms of prospects are fleeting at this point of the offseason, too.
Fact is, the Reds had one chance to potentially help themselves at a position of need and do so in a way that might, might salvage a few fans along the way, and they opted against making that move today. That’s fine, I guess, as this is the hand they continue to play and they’re continuing to show it to us. It’s just a pretty poor, very boring hand.
Enjoy Miami, Johnny. I hope that big home ballpark helps you put up the kind of numbers that keep you around this game for many more years to come. Heck, maybe signing you this time next year will be the kind of ‘add a veteran to a sparky group of budding youngsters’ move the Reds will need. We just have to waste another entire baseball season at the big league level before we witness such a brazen, audacious concept materialize for this club.