The Giants included the opt-out clause in Cueto’s deal when they signed the then-free agent to a six-year, $130MM pact after the 2015 season. At the time, Cueto was an established front-line workhorse who was coming off six straight outstanding seasons, most of which were spent with the Reds. Cincinnati traded Cueto to Kansas City in July 2015, and he went on to win a World Series with the Royals that year despite posting somewhat disappointing numbers along the way.
In the first year of his Giants tenure, Cueto lived up to his contract by delivering 219 2/3 innings of 2.79 ERA ball and logging 8.11 K/9, 1.84 BB/9 and a 50.2 percent groundball rate. Similar production in 2017 likely would have led Cueto back to the open market, but he instead endured one of the worst seasons of his career. Cueto threw just 147 2/3 innings, his lowest total since 2011, thanks in part to blister issues and a mild flexor strain. When he was healthy enough to pitch, Cueto looked more like a back-end starter than an ace. All told, the 31-year-old put up the second-worst ERA (4.52), walk rate (3.24 BB/9) and grounder percentage (39.4) of his career, contributing to the downfall of a Giants team that entered 2017 with playoff aspirations but wound up tying the Tigers for the majors’ worst record (64-98).
The Giants had no shortage of issues in 2017, including in their rotation, but most of their starting staff for next year already looks set. Along with Cueto, ace Madison Bumgarner, Jeff Samardzija and Matt Moore remain in the fold, as do fifth starter candidates Ty Blach and Chris Stratton.