The Giants announced to reporters Wednesday evening that right-hander Johnny Cueto will undergo Tommy John surgery tomorrow (Twitter link via Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area). The procedure will end his 2018 season and cost him the majority of the 2019 campaign as well.
Cueto spent two months on the disabled list earlier this season due to an elbow strain but was able to return to the mound in early July. However, after working to a sub-1.00 ERA through the season’s first month, he allowed 16 runs in 21 innings before landing back on the disabled list. Manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged recently that Tommy John surgery was a definite possibility for Cueto, and today’s announcement confirms as much.
The loss of Cueto is a massive blow to the Giants’ 2018 hopes. They’re currently five games out of the lead in the NL West and 4.5 games back of the second Wild Card spot in the National League, though the loss of Cueto and ongoing injury issues with Jeff Samardzija will present them with even more of an uphill battle in their efforts to return to the top of the division.
Cueto, 33 in February, is in the third season of a six-year, $132MM contract after forgoing an opt-out clause after the deal’s second season. While he turned in a brilliant first season in San Francisco back in 2016, his 2017 was marred by injuries, and both the 2018 and 2019 seasons will now fall under that same category. He’ll hope for a return late in the 2019 campaign, though it’s possible that Cueto won’t be able to return to the Giants’ rotation until after his 35th birthday. He’s owed just under $75MM through the end of the 2021 season (including a $5MM buyout of a $22MM option for the 2022 season).
It’s not clear whether the worst-case outcome on Cueto’s elbow will motivate the Giants to subtract any veteran pieces over the course of the month. San Francisco’s front office has been candid about its desire to try to remain competitive on a yearly basis. Certainly, they’d have plenty of pieces who could be attractive to contending clubs if they fall any further out of the race. While the Giants aren’t going to be embarking on any type of full-scale tear down, shorter-term veterans like Sam Dyson, Will Smith, Nick Hundley and Derek Holland could draw interest from teams that are more firmly in the playoff hunt. It’s far from clear, though, that the Giants would make any of those players available later this month.