While San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto isn’t one to shy away from the big stage, his comments over the weekend caused some head-scratching.
Heading into the San Francisco Giants‘ two-game series with the Kansas City Royals this Tuesday, Johnny Cueto was asked by reporters about his interest in batting and running the bases, something pitchers can’t do in the American League because of the DH.
“I sometimes feel the American League is stronger than the National League. It doesn’t matter where I play. It’s baseball. But I would like to finish my career in the American League.”
Wow, talk about substance. You mean the guy who pitched to a 4-7 record and 4.76 ERA through 13 games started (the second-highest ERA other than his rookie year) with the Royals in 2015 wants to subject himself to that yet again?
Let’s be clear: Johnny Cueto is one of the top pitchers in the game, when he is in fact on his game. Pitching to a sparkling record of 18-5 and a 2.79 ERA through 32 games started in his Giants debut, he’s off to a strong start yet again this season.
Why opt out of a six-year, $130 million deal when you are having this much success? The reason, as it always is, is money. While he is owed over $21 million per season, Cueto could possibly cash in yet again after the year.
Turning 32 before spring training of 2018, another strong season in San Francisco could lead to even more money with a shorter amount of years. That’s not to say he’d opt out and wouldn’t return to the Giants if the price is right. Honestly, I think if he does opt out, he’d like to pitch in the American League. I think he’d also love to stay in the National League. Whoever is offering the most money for his services, that’ll be the place he decides to go, regardless of league.
“It’s just a personal preference because I played so much in the National League.” – Johnny Cueto, per SFGate.com
While Cueto said he would like to “finish his career in the American League,” that also doesn’t mean his next contract will be his last contract. You must admire someone who wants to challenge himself on a day-to-day basis, but maybe the American League isn’t the right road for him to take.
In his brief time with the Royals, below average was an understatement. His postseason, except for the thrashing the Blue Jays gave him in the divisional round, was much better. Throwing a complete game two-hitter in Game 2 of the 2015 World Series made things right between himself and Royals fans. While his regular season was bad, he showed up on the biggest night possible, helping the Royals win their first World Series since 1985.
Given a full season in the American League, I think Cueto could succeed. But as an observer, the numbers don’t lie. He would be much better situated on a team in the National League. That being said, you have to love the confidence he has in himself.