Giants starting pitcher Johnny Cueto will likely be traded before the deadline. We take a look at the fantasy impact of three of the potential landing spots.
Johnny Cueto is the ace of the Giants’ rotation and is signed to a very affordable contract which will pay him $84 million over the next four years. Unless he suffers a major injury, the right-hander is expected to opt out of the deal at the end of the season. He will be moved before the trade deadline.
Cueto is a bona fide ace. He is on pace to throw 200 innings for the fourth straight year. Before this season, Cueto had a 2.73 ERA with 941 strikeouts over the last six years in more than 1,100 innings. Only the Dodgers Clayton Kershaw has better stats.
Despite the track record, 2017 has not gone to plan for Cueto. With 2.73 BB/9, he is walking batters at the highest rate since 2009, and balls are flying out of the park at a rate of 16.8 % HR/FB, exactly double last year’s 8.4% HR/FB.
Cueto has received minimal offensive support, with the Giants scoring two runs or less in six of his last 12 starts.
So which teams will be willing to trade away prospects for what could just be a three-month rental? In fact, Ken Rosenthal considers Cueto’s value “lower than a rental” due to the complication of the opt-out.
But let’s be honest, every team with post-season ambitions would like to add Cueto to their rotation. So as trade talks heat up, Cueto’s name will be high on most contenders’ shopping list.
Three teams are generating the most speculation.
There are very few elite players that are not linked to the Cubs in trade speculation. This season has not panned out as expected for the World Series champions but they are just one place out of the Wild Card spot with half a season to go.
A move to Chicago would undoubtedly increase Cueto’s damaged fantasy value. He would slot in with Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey as the starting four, removing the pressure on Mike Montgomery and Eddie Butler to take the ball every fifth day.
Wrigley Field is not as pitcher-friendly as AT&T Park, but the same can be said for all other 28 ballparks.
With a 57-27 win-loss record, the Astros are the top team in MLB this season. And this is despite losing 80% of their Opening Day rotation through injury, with only Lance McCullers remaining.
The Astros are relying on second choice starters like Brad Peacock and Mike Fiers. You should read Bill Pivetz’s article on Fiers’ fantasy value.
Any advantage Cueto would gain by pitching in front of the most potent offense would be mitigated by the Astros dismal defense. According to Fangraphs defensive WAR, Houston ranks in the bottom three.
A move to Minute Maid Park would have the least impact of any trade for Cueto, as only AT&T Park is harsher for hitters.
For a pitcher suffering from the lowest ground ball rate of his career, a move to the thin air of Colorado would not help his fantasy value. If AT&T Park is the most favorable park for Cueto to pitch in, then Coors Field would be the least.
Led by Nolan Arenado at third base, the Rockies are a top-three defensive team but staying in the NL West, would mean Cueto still has to face the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, two of the top five run scoring teams this season.
In theory, no move away from San Francisco should help Cueto’s fantasy value but playing for a contender and pitching for a new contract, will probably ensure that his second half stats are closer to the top-20 starting pitcher that was drafted.