Boston Red Sox: How Johnny Cueto could be the ace

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Oct 9, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Johnny Cueto throws a pitch against the Houston Astros in the first inning in game two of the ALDS at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Imagine you are Boston Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski. Not only do you now have a magnificent, time-defying coiffure, and a new suit ready and waiting for any media moment (even on the radio), but also a blank check to turn around the fortunes of one of the most lucrative franchises in baseball.

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Watching the seconds tick down to the offseason with baited breath, you ready the go button for your already decided roster moves. Boston’s going to need a rotation like the New York Mets, so why not just take theirs? Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard at least, shouldn’t be too expensive; we can always get Mookie Betts back later. After that, why not throw in Chris Sale? Sounds like Blake Swihart might get the job done. Final slot goes to David Price, a big sack with a dollar sign on it and 220 million dollars in it should do the job. Now, who has Aroldis Chapman’s cell number?

It sounds perfect doesn’t it? Alas, real life Dombrowski may well still have the immaculately chiseled hairdo and the outfit to match, but as we’ve discussed before, his hands may well be tied as he seeks to rebuild the Red Sox pitching staff for 2016. Despite Boston’s perhaps unrivalled purchasing power, the competition will undoubtedly be fierce and, make no mistake; every team out there either needs an ace or just simply wants (another) one.

It should come as no surprise, then, that predicts that Boston will end up landing, not Price, not Zack Greinke, but one Johnny Cueto as the free agent to lead their staff:

"“Johnny Cueto – Red Sox. Five years, $115MM. Cueto served as the Reds’ ace for many years until the Royals acquired him in July, removing his qualifying offer eligibility. Prior to the trade, he went two weeks between starts due to an elbow issue, but avoided the DL. Cueto was not the dominant force the Royals expected, as he posted a 4.76 ERA in 13 regular season starts and pitched poorly in two of his four postseason outings. The righty capped his season with a complete game to take Game 2 of the World Series. Cueto’s performance since August may have knocked down his free agent value, leaving teams wary of guaranteeing a sixth year. He could still be the ace the Red Sox are seeking, as predicted by five of seven MLBTR writers”"

This doesn’t necessarily mean that Cueto is for sure heading to Boston, you may well be relieved to hear. Even so, we know already, for better or worse, he will be a target for the Red Sox this offseason and many feel that this will be the Red Sox most realistic option, at least in free agency.

Now, as noted above, Cueto struggled following his move to the Royals and, perhaps more worryingly, the American League. That price/contract guesstimate is vastly lower than what one would have imagined Cueto could command only half a year ago. Perhaps he would be looking at even half as much again. That’s not smoke and mirrors, his performance has dropped unquestionably and so has his demand.

Even so, I want to take a closer look at Cueto and make a case, perhaps against my better judgement, as to why he may be a better fit in Boston, why his struggles on the mound of late may not be indicative of anything and maybe, just maybe, why a five year contract at 115-140 million may be a steal after all. Let’s step in to the real shoes of Dombrowski – feel those soft soles? That’s real leather, son.

Next: His stuff