Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cueto Gets Four Year Extention from Reds

This is turning out to be a very busy winter for the Reds.  In December, they signed Jay Bruce to a six year $51M extension.  Then, on Sunday, they came to terms with MVP Joey Votto on a three year extension worth $38M.  Now, according to Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes, the Reds and starting pitcher Johnny Cueto appear to have come to terms on a four year extension that will pay him $27M. By signing Cueto for four years, the Reds have not only bought out all three of his arbitration seasons, but also his first year of free agency. 

Cueto, 24, has an impressive four pitch repertoire that features a rising four-seam fastball that sits at 91-95 MPH, and touches 96-97; a hard breaking slider; a solid cutter; and a tumbling plus-change that has occasionally drawn comparisons to Pedro Martinez's change.  He induces whiffs at an above average rate (9.9% in 2010), but that's yet to translate into consistent strikeout totals.  As he continues to develop and mature, that trend should improve over time.  While his walk rate and control are still a work in progress, both have greatly improved and still within the acceptable range.  Last season, Cueto benefited from a lower than expected HR/FB rate of 8.6% (versus a 12.5% baseline).  Considering the fact he pitches in the launching pad also known as Great American Ballpark, it wouldn't surprise me to see his HR/FB ratio regress back toward the mean next season.  Even with a higher home run rate in 2011, Cueto should be able to cover that increase by improving his strikeout and walk rates.

Currently, Cueto's true talent level is around 2.5-3.0 WAR.  Assuming he continues to develop as planned, he should end up becoming a 3.5-4.5 WAR pitcher (a solid number two or three starter) by the end of his extension.  If that's the case, the Reds will end up cleaning up on this deal.

Last season, Cueto produced a 12-7 record with a 3.97 FIP, 6.62 K/9, 2.46 K/BB, and 2.8 fWAR in 186 innings.

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