As expected, the Giants have declined their $22MM club option for next season on right-hander Johnny Cueto, tweets Jon Heyman of the MLB Network. The veteran hurler will instead receive a $5MM buyout and hit the open market.
The call on the option has long been a mere formality, as Cueto has settled in as a back-of-the-rotation arm over his past couple seasons. The two-time All-Star missed most of the 2018-19 campaigns on account of an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. He had a couple of minor injured list stints this year but has generally been a capable innings eater over the past two seasons.
Since the start of 2020, Cueto has tossed 178 innings with a 4.55 ERA/4.26 FIP. The 35-year-old has a better than average 7.3% walk percentage in that time, but he’s only fanned 20.1% of opponents. Cueto doesn’t throw as hard or induce as many whiffs as he did during his peak days with the Reds, but he’s a capable strike-thrower who could upgrade the fourth or fifth rotation spot on a number of teams around the league.
Cueto shouldn’t have any problem landing a major league contract, but that deal doesn’t figure to come particularly close to the net $17MM call the Giants’ front office was left to make. It wouldn’t be shocking if San Francisco themselves remains in the market, as the Giants are also facing the potential free agent departures of Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood. They’ll need to overhaul their rotation this winter, which president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has already called the club’s “number one priority.”