Red Sox Didn’t Need Johnny Cueto In 2015

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Look who’s not in last place in the American League East, anymore.

The Boston Red Sox are on a six-game winning streak, 7-3 in their last 10 games, and a game in front of the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays for third place in the division. Sure, they’re still 14 games back of the division-clinching Toronto Blue Jays, but after the horrendous 2015 season the Red Sox are only six games behind the New York Yankees, who are still clinging to a slight lead in the A.L. wildcard race. Not bad, considering they never brought in an ace like Johnny Cueto at the trade deadline.

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Who’s Johnny Cueto? Well, the Kansas City Royals and their fans must be asking themselves that, after trading for him in July for Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, and minor leaguer Cody Reed. While the Cincinnati Reds try to rebuild a bit with those players, Cueto was brought in to help the Royals on their post-season run. So far, it hasn’t been all roses and trumpets for the former Reds ace.

A ton of rumors were suggesting that the Red Sox were interested in his services and would be one of only a handful of teams who could pay his asking price in free agency. Cueto makes $10 million this season, but he has openly been demanding much more this off-season.

Based on Cueto’s efforts since the trade, however, he better hope that it has been just an adjustment period from the National League to the American League.

Cueto started his time with the Royals in a big matchup against the Blue Jays, which seemed to dictate a turning point for both teams. The Royals were the clear winners of the A.L. Central before we even hit August, but on July 31 Cueto got touched for three runs on seven hits in six innings in a series where the Blue Jays players boiled over with anger at the Royals’ pitching staff. The Jays ended up winning that series and the Royals have never quite been the dominating presence they once were.

Oh, the Royals still ended up winning the Central easily, but Cueto never seemed to recover.

In August, Cueto went 2-3 with a 3.86 ERA, including two games where he allowed six runs to the Orioles and the Red Sox. In September, it only got worse. Cueto went 1-4 with a 6.11 ERA, including a seven-run thrashing in Baltimore. For his last seven starts, Cueto’s 6.69 ERA has looked so ugly, he’s given up more runs than he has strikeouts, 30 to 28 in 40.1 innings of work.

That kind of performance is completely unacceptable for a supposed ace pitcher who wants even more money than he’s already making.

As far as the Red Sox starting rotation has done in the last 30 games, the pitcher with the highest ERA is Wade Miley with a mark of 3.97. Boston’s starters have allowed 60 runs combined in that span. Cueto had half of those runs himself, not counting how the rest of the Royals’ pitchers faired.

The Red Sox swept the Orioles, played spoiler by sweeping the Yankees, and won both series against the Blue Jays at home and away. Imagine what would have happened if Boston would have traded players like Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Blake Swihart, Travis Shaw, Henry Owens, or some other prospect-turned-starter for Cueto. There’s no guarantee that Cueto will figure himself out after moving from one league to the other. The odds are that he will, but as far as 2015 is concerned the Red Sox were much better off without him.

In 2016, things could change. The Red Sox are still in need of a quality pitcher for both their starting rotation and their bullpen. If Cueto does repair the damage that he’s done to his free agency value, by having an exceptional post-season run, then maybe the Red Sox should make inquiries. However, after the promises that free agents Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval were going to save the team, only to fall very short of the promised land, you can’t blame Red Sox Nation of being wary of Cueto bearing gifts next year. The Red Sox may want to take a lesson from the city of Troy and bar Fenway’s gates, instead.

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