The Blue Jays made a notable addition to their rotation this week by signing right-hander Chris Bassitt to a three-year deal, but they might not be done. Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet reports that the club is open to further additions and have shown recent interest in righty Johnny Cueto.
The club has four rotation spots now spoken for, with Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, José Berríos and Bassitt all locked in as long as they’re healthy. The final spot in the rotation is a bit less concrete, however. The club signed lefty Yusei Kikuchi to a three-year deal going into 2022 but saw him struggle badly, eventually getting bumped to the bullpen and finishing the year with a 5.19 ERA. Righty Mitch White had a 3.70 ERA with the Dodgers when the Jays acquired him at the deadline, but he posted a 7.74 ERA after the deal. Hyun Jin Ryu underwent Tommy John surgery in June and won’t be an option until the second half of the season even in a best-case scenario. Nate Pearson was once one of the top pitching prospects in baseball but he’s been limited by various injuries to less than 50 innings in each of the past three seasons. Given all that uncertainty at the back end, it’s unsurprising that a win-now club like the Jays would be open to adding a stable veteran.
Cueto, 37 in February, surely fits the bill having pitched in each of the past 15 MLB seasons with a career 3.44 ERA. One of the best pitchers in baseball earlier in his career, he’s falling from those incredible heights but has proven himself to still be quite useful of late. He dealt with injuries and was barely able to pitch in 2018 and 2019, then struggled in the shortened 2020 season. However, he’s had a solid return to form in each of the past two campaigns.
With the Giants in 2021, he tossed 114 2/3 innings with a 4.08 ERA. His 20% strikeout rate was a bit shy of average, but his 6.1% walk rate was quite strong. He reached free agency after that campaign and lingered on the market after the lockout. He eventually signed a minor league deal with the White Sox in early April, though one that would pay him a prorated $4.2MM salary once in the majors. After getting built up to a starter’s workload, he made it back to the big leagues in May and eventually tossed 158 1/3 innings for the Pale Hose with a 3.35 ERA. Similar to the year before, he didn’t rack up the strikeouts, finishing with a 15.7% rate. However, his control was even better, as he walked just 5.1% of batters faced. He got grounders on 42.6% of balls in play and limited hard contact, coming in the 67th percentile in terms of hard hit percentage and 69th percentile in terms of average exit velocity.
Given Cueto’s age, he will likely be limited to a one-year deal but he should still earn a decent salary. He’s coming off a stronger platform than he was one year ago and the market for starting pitching has been quite strong overall this year. The free agent market still has a few surefire starters in Carlos Rodón, Nathan Eovaldi, Noah Syndergaard and Michael Wacha, but Cueto is one of the more attractive options outside of that group. Others include Corey Kluber, Drew Smyly and Drew Rucinski.
Notably, the Blue Jays are now positioned to pay the competitive balance tax for the first time in franchise history. The recent signings of Bassitt and Kevin Kiermaier have nudged the team just barely over the $233MM threshold, according to Roster Resource. It’s always possible that they could make a trade that puts them back under, but it seems possible the club is willing to stay over the line by season’s end. If that is indeed the case, then perhaps they are willing to spend a bit more to add Cueto or someone similar to their pitching staff. Nicholson-Smith relays that president Mark Shapiro recently said that the CBT is “not an obstacle” for ownership. “The support and the growth of that payroll is unprecedented in the history of the franchise and it continues to be very strong.”
It’s unclear how high they plan on taking the payroll, but they appear to be targeting areas other than the rotation. Nicholson-Smith reiterates their known interest in outfielders and adds that they have been showing interest in “high-upside relievers” even after acquiring Erik Swanson in the Teoscar Hernández trade earlier this winter. No names are listed as specific targets, but some of the top relief names on the open market are Taylor Rogers, Andrew Chafin, Adam Ottavino and Michael Fulmer. Nicholson-Smith adds on Twitter that it’s possible the Jays are more likely to add in the bullpen than the rotation, despite the interest in Cueto.
I remember the chantings “CUE-TO” in PNC, such good times.
Agreed. Sadly erased from the memories of most of the posters on this site. They can’t all be twelve years old…. can they?
Most 12 year olds these days aren’t watching baseball, and Manfred isn’t really doing a good job at fixing that.
John Rocker Fan Club
Manfred insists that more batflips will make little Timmy watch baseball.
Cant hurt give him a year with the ever popular opt out
Johnny can still pitch and is highly underrated.
Great guy at the back end of a rotation, will give you quality innings and he won’t break the bank.
Grab him Halo’s this guy still has stuff left in the tank and he’ll teach the young bucs a thing or two! Only guy out there trickier is Greinke!
thought the Halo’s were set with Ohtani, Detmers, Anderson, Sandoval and Suarez
Miller, I don’t have oodles of confidence in Suarez and Sandoval. So lets get ONE more starter and ONE more reliever!
Cueto probably exhaust his options to find a spot in a rotation before he moved into the bullpen but the Angels could use a righty
Sign Cueto for 1 /$8 Million. Than trade for Reynolds or Varsho, Jays add $10 to 12 Million more in salaries.
Hah. He’d have to be at gunpoint to sign for that. On a one year contract Cueto is going to cost $20M+. 2 years for $30M might be plausible at his age.
Lol first that useless plug Kiermaier now Cueto? Atkins knows it’s not 2016 right? What a trainwreck this off-season has been so far. Compete disappointment to follow up a couple really great seasons. Such this bum too I guess while Ryu and Kikuchi make bank for nothing. Lol
Cueto was a stud last season with the ChiSox!
Can we at least get him back on the south side?!?
Only if they trade Reinsdorf for Olly Watkins, one of the ball ots for the Jays last season.
Cueto was solid at the backend of the White Sox rotation last season. He may not be the same Pitcher he was in 2016 but is probably still better than Kikuchi or White
What did Shatkins do to you
Dude, I will be honest, I am just irate about the Kiermaier signing. 9M for a guy that is literally half of what he was in his prime that plays about half the games too. His lower body has been demolished by turf and he’s supposed to be replacing Tapia (128 games) and Zimmer (100 games lol).? Everyone keeps saying he’s only the 4th outfielder who cares but that position played a lot of baseball last year. Jays fans keep acting like they are getting 2016 Kiermaier but even in those days the guy couldn’t hit his way out of a paper bag. As of right now, he’s in a starting spot until this magical CF is signed or traded for. Conforto and Brantley aren’t options for CF so if Springer gets hurt, KK goes in and gets hurt….then what? Dumbest signing in that man’s tenure by a mile. That’s where he touched me lol.
Kiermaier graded out as a league average hitter not that long ago in 2021. Even if he isn’t a great batter, he’s a safe bet for at least a 90-95 OPS+/wRC+.
Wrong stats though dude. Last season, The Jays 4th and 5th outfielders had to play 128 and 100 games respectively. Kiermaier has only played 128 or more 3 out of 9 seasons in the show. None of those stats matter at all if he’s riding the IL. So to sit there and put him into a slot that expects him on paper to play 120 games when he can’t do that is just dumb. Plus right now, he’s the 3rd outfielder, not the 4th and who they sign or trade for will depend on how much CF they’ll need him for. Imagine trusting a mix of Springer and Kiermaier to platoon CF all season…that is scary stuff. It’ll be Gurriel, Merrifield and…..?
Tapia played a lot….and while he delivered in a few memorable moments and seemed like a great culture guy he was so frustrating to watch attempt to hit….all you heard from Colorado was how he would hit everything on the ground and run it out….we did not get that tapia….it was like willie mays Hayes in major league 2, trying to go yard, earn the blue jacket…..I was a fan of Tapia coming in for Randal but he really underperformed….for me he had to go after his garbage routes to balls in game 2…..imo they win that game long before the Bo/George gapper if Tapia gets to balls hit to him and gets the throw in properly…..that being said nothing says they can’t still bring him back on a Zimmer like 1.5 million ticket……and using games Zimmer played is a bit disingenuous as he started like 2 , and many games he came in in the 7,8,9th to get George off his feet while being a complete void at the plate. If Kk stays healthy and gives league average offence this ends up being a steal, and maybe part of why Bassit (contact pitcher) agreed to come to T.O. After it being reported just the week before that he wasn’t int in jays…..:also beating out the dodgers for him should give you some comfort as the Dodgers have a tendency to make good decisions.
Dude would be a way better #5 than Kikuchi and you’re complaining? Kiermaier is also a great pickup provided he was picked up to be the Tapia/Zimmer/JBJ replacement and not a regular starter.
Their 4th and 5th outfielders played 128 and 100 games last year. Kiermaier can’t do either of those things and you know that. So to pay him 9M when he can’t stay healthy, can’t hit and has lost half his speed/defensive ability doesn’t worry you at all? That’s all if they can sign or trade for a CF. Who’s that in your world? They can’t afford Benitendi so the only option is trade with Arizona which will cost them Moreno. Conforto doesn’t play CF so… who’s this magic outfielder that pushes KK to 4th spot?
Big Tee …………………Your 100 game figure for the 5th outfielder is totally misleading as most of those were as late inning defensive replacement. .Zimmer + Bradley combined had 181 ABs. KK is a perfectly good 4th OF. Unless KK is having a really good year he will not be asked to replace 433 ABs that Tapia had.
Well really if he’s replacing the three players he’s replacing all of their collective games played, at-bats etc no? Yes a bit misleading for Zimmer but the point is, KK hasn’t played enough to replace all of those players very many times in his whole career.
These signings remind me of the closer they signed a few years ago that had been lights out but was coming off of surgery. Forgot his name. The guy couldn’t even pitch most of the year.
I like Kevin Kiermaier a lot. But no one knows how fit he is physically until he shows up in string training, let alone how well he’ll hold up during the season.
Smart and well run teams don’t reach like this. But Shapiro and Atkins have for years. It’s either because they don’t have faith in promoting the youngsters in their farm system, or they won’t. Cherington is in Pittsburgh, his players are in the majors, and their system is producing nothing of major value. They don’t make players better, they don’t promote from within, they keep throwing money around at questionable veterans whose former teams that know them best let them go. The team hasn’t gotten noticeably better in the last 3 years….but their payroll keeps growing.
Well Toronto was dumb for giving Kikuchi that money in the first place. Hes not been a good pitcher since he came stateside. Cueto would almost certainly be a better option.
If only he would just throw his fastball and ditch the cutter. The fact alone that they worked with him for a whole season on trying to get him to throw it more just to have him keep throwing the cutter must have been maddening for Walker.
Kukuchi made the al allstar team…..sure he ended up the season in the bullpen but he has had success “stateside”
Nothing was available for starters when they got him last year too, it was in the after lockout flurry of moves.
He had about 5 great starts this year, of course he was a train wreck for the rest, but there still may be something there…..what’s nice is I believe his 36 was broken down as 16-10-10, so moving him for next year may not be off the table, as their not sending out 13 mill a year. We also only have Mayza as a lefty currently (I believe), so there could be some value there as well.
Cueto might not have a blazing fb anymore but he keeps batters off-balance with his array of pitches and various types of wind-ups. In one game, the starter couldn’t continue and the Sox had overused their bullpen. Cueto volunteered to take over even though he had started two or three days earlier. He did exceptionally well, keeping his team in the game.
I liked the Hernandez trade, Macko and Swanson both could be nice bullpen arms
I’d rather Syndergaard for the 5 spot.
White is AAA depth and Kikuchi can learn to pitch out of the pen
I’d take Cueto over Syndergaard all day if I’m comparing last season. However, either one is a good pick up for the Jays. We need one more starter and an outfielder!
C Yards Jeff
I’d take Cueto. One year deal is a real thing. Thor will be a multi year deal. 37 year old Cueto is there as a placeholder until Ryu is back.
Joe Carters walkoff
Thor just so happened to be a 1yr deal lol. Missed by that much
C Yards Jeff
@JCwalkoff; Thor to LAD on a 1 yr deal. LOL indeed. Cheers;
Andrew Chafin and Johnny Cueto works.
Teams don’t know how to assess him properly. He’s excellent w an inning limit and excellent as a starter still. If I’m a contender – I sign him now and have him report on June 1. Give him 30 days to warm up then run him out there w limited innings and appearance in July building him up to be at his peak for seasons end. Do that and he will not disappoint
Dylan Bundy must be crying.
When a team can’t develop its pitchers it has to spend for them. Either via FA or in trades.
Give it to the Jays that they don’t try to hide it.
But (again) the rub is that pitchers need to be adjusted during the season. It’s normal to get out of sync a bit. But when your pitcher coaching staff can’t develop their own pitchers, they surely aren’t going to keep all or even most of the pitchers they acquire from the outside up to speed.
This isn’t a new development. I’ve been watching this for over half a century. Hitting is easy to find and develop – especially if one isn’t picky about a position players defense. The good pitching teams continue to develop pitching year after year. You look at teams that are sustainable contenders for at least 4 years and every one of them does well developing pitchers. Start with this years champions.
Doesn’t pitching usually take longer to develop though. Look at Huston they went out and supplemented their starters as their starting prospects didn’t match the time line on their position players. Now they have a bunch of cheap starters and expensive position players. Good teams cycle like that.
Shapiro and Atkins have been in Toronto for 8 years. They’ve developed 1 – ONE – quality starting pitcher.
How much longer do they need?
Pearson had a brief stint with Buffalo at the end of last season. Man, this kid has had some bad luck in the last couple years. Seems like he’s on the mend, though.
Anybody think he’ll be in the Jays rotation in 2023?
Pearson, is a reliever, Ricky T. maybe the future, depending on injuries. Pearson in the Bullpen by May, is reasonable. White is stretched out if he survives being dropped, or send Kikuchi down to the minors. first injury to the relief corps up Kikuchi goes to the Bullpen.
I can see us letting him in the bullpen, but if he implodes then he might even get a release this year lol
After an injury I see it, so long as he himself stays healthy of-course.
Cueto is the type of veteran pitcher who would help any team
Hmm, if i had to choose between Cueto as the 5th man or Kluber, who would be the best selection. Both were once dominant starters who are still effective because they know how to pitch and limit hard contact. Cueto on a 1yr 7-8M deal, same with Kluber, would seem to put White in the minors and Kikkuci as a long man in the pen to compliment Mayza as lefty’s. I thought that when he made the move and got acclimated, he did a good job in that role and struck out a lot of batters.
I was hoping the Orioles would be looking his way.
Fun to watch him pitch, he’s always doing a lot on the mound.
Mr. Cueto is on his way to becoming the new Bartolo Colon, as apparently the more rotund he gets the longer he will last.
Cueto probably looking for the Mike Clevinger K maybe more. Y1 $8M, Y2 $12M Mutual $4M Buyout.
Time to trade Biggio and Toman for Lauer of the Brewers
Oriental Star Ohtani
I’ve had MLB TV for 4 seasons and watch everybody and I have no clue who Drew Rucinski is.
That’s because he spent the last four seasons in South Korea. He’s done pretty well over there too.
Ok so he did well in triple A. Will it translate to success in MLB?
KBO and similar foreign leagues are more like Quad-A than Triple-A.
Kikuchi has been bad to say the least but the good news is they front loaded that deal so he’s now making 20/2. So at 10 per he isn’t going to hurt the team, I think he could be a real weapon in the pen. Either way it’s a good value considering if he was an FA the year he would have gotten at least 15 for 1 year
If you have a bullpen of relief starters kikuchi,nate perason ,rickey t then you can surely patch the rotation????
This one belongs to the Reds
I’d take Cueto back in a minute. The three young stud starters need a vet around to give out pointers and stabilize the rotation. But that makes too much sense to actually happen.