- Cueto has agreed to deal, now pending physical, as usual.
- $130M over 6 years, so more than D-backs offer ($21.67M AAV for threshold purposes)
- Opt-out after two years, team option for 7th
- $23M for first two years, $21M over final four
Wow! Assuming all goes well, that gives the Giants this rotation: Bumgarner, Cueto, Samardzija, Peavy, Cain with Heston as long relief and Blackburn as first up if they need another starter and want to keep Heston in familiar role, which they will most probably do if Blackburn continues to dominate AAA. Cueto ends up the Giants #2 upgrade, and Samardzija becomes the upgrade over Heston.
This almost ensures that Cueto is leaving after two years, barring massive injury problems (see Cain's struggles), as his salary after the opt-out is lower. With salary inflation, basically the last four seasons are priced at average WAR range, roughly 2 WAR, and he has averaged 3.5 fWAR and 4.4 bWAR the past four years, and in full seasons, 4.5 fWAR in his full seasons over that span (bad news is he missed most of 2013 due to lat and shoulder problems, but good news is 455.2 IP in the two seasons since, plus 25.0 playoff innings; I guess the Giants are not scared by 2013 healthy problems) and averaged 6.0 bWAR per 162 game season. No reason for him not to opt-out unless he's really injured, like 2013 type of injury.
Just as analysis has praised Chicago for buying Heyward's next few years on the cheap if he produces, same for the Giants with Cueto. There is a lot of risk to the team if anything happens, but Cueto has been mostly healthy and he has to be pretty healthy the past two seasons to throw as many innings as he did, and when he was producing, he was producing at ace level production, so he could fall off a lot and the contract still works out OK for the Giants.
Here's the odd part: while Cueto is clearly by salary and performance so far better than Samardzija, over the 2012-2015 period, Samardzija has basically the same kwERA and SIERA, which are talent evaluating metrics, suggesting that they are equally talented (but Cueto has produced much more so far):
- Samardzija: #26, 3.50 kwERA; #35, 3.57 SIERA, #28, 15.6% K-BB%
- Cueto: #28, 3.51 kwERA; #32, 3.55 SIERA; #26, 15.6% K-BB%
Here's another odd part: Cueto has been much better at home (mostly Cincy) than on the road:
- Home: 3.00 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 3.68 K/BB
- Road: 3.56 ERA, 6.8 K/9, 2.30 K/BB
- But SF: 1.69 ERA, 5.9 K/9, 1.75 K/BB (3 starts, poorer in 2012 and 2014 starts; 2011 great)
Move At Minimum is About Capitalizing on Next Two Years
Big THANKS to the owners! This is clearly a move by the owners to win in the window of the next two seasons, at minimum. At $21M over the last four years of the contract, basically this is a two year contract and then Cueto opts out if he's healthy for the most part. This is because at $21M, he's basically being paid to be an average pitcher in those last four years, as the $/WAR by then will be roughly around $10M/WAR.
Given that Cueto has averaged roughly 4 WAR (between fWAR and bWAR) over the past four seasons, and that's including his injury shortened year, and produced at a 6.0 bWAR pace over the past four seasons, he would have to decline a lot (to less than a third of prior performance) in his 31 and 32 YO seasons (unlikely) for him not to dip into the free agency honeypot again after the 2017 season. So he is most probably gone after two years unless the Giants decide to re-up him before he goes free agent (very possible if he's still producing at 6 WAR).
The risk to the Giants is that he starts to decline, and it would have to be a pretty catastrophic decline (over 67% in two seasons) for that to happen. Of course, we have seen that happen with Lincecum. So, essentially, this is basically the Giants shifting the contract that they would have given to Lincecum over to Cueto, taking on that risk once again. The great contract that they gave Bumgarner that covers most of those years helps them do this. So does the relatively cheap infield that covers most of these years as well.
The Giants Did Great This Off-season
This should shut up all the people who have been complaining about the Giants this off-season. I know that they will claim to have forced the Giants to have done that. Just like they forced the Giants to sign Vlad before, or sign Maddux, or sign Lester, or not to sign Zito and Rowand, I'm sure the Giants listened to these people (NOT!).
That's why I don't get too riled up about how the off-season is going, things can change a lot, like this off-season, or you could get disappointed, like we were when it turned out that AJP was our big move that off-season when Sabean said that it was just the start. Act like you've lived a little, as Gary Radnich likes to say. Act like you've been through this before. This is what I've been calling "Chicken Little" behavior for years now, as they run around complaining that the sky is falling, which they do every year, even before recent even years, and also during even years, they just never seem to learn.
Not that the Giants are perfect in what they do, there were certainly things to complain about. But crying about everything got the "boy who cried wolf" nothing. Give credit where plenty of credit is due, for any front office who is able to deliver 3 in 5.
There is a need to take the big picture in hand. There is a need to not worry about the small things. There is a need to have perspective. There is a need to let things unfold, because the off-season can change a lot and ultimately nothing really matters until we get to opening day and see who we have on our 25-man roster.
The Big Picture: Giants Looking Good to Try to Repeat in 2016-2017
And that's repeat as in winning in 2016 and 2017, or at minimum keeping the string going after 3 in 5. The Giants are not only going for 4 in 7, but also 5 in 8. That's exciting a move as they have ever done in this dynasty period. That's putting the pedal to the metal in a big way. And they are paying the two pitchers roughly what they would have given Greinke and a replacement LF like Byrd. I like this alternative much more than getting Greinke, the risks now is if both don't deliver, which I view as a lower risk than hoping Greinke makes it OK.
A rotation of Bumgarner, Cueto, Samardzija, Peavy, and Cain, plus Heston and Blackburn is pretty darn good, potentially great if Cain returns to Cainer form. Return of Cain would give us four starters capable of 210+ IP and sub-3 ERA. And given Bochy's love of alternating, and Madison's lack of ego, it would not surprise me to see an opening rotation of Cueto, Bumgarner, Samardzija, Peavy, and Cain, and if Cain is returned to prior form, he and Peavy could end up swapping. In any case, now we have three horses who can put up 210-220 IP each, saving the bullpen 30-50 IP each, allowing Bochy to use them, not only less, but more judiciously.
And our bullpen is pretty great. All the guys are capable of delivering ERA's below 3. And Heston probably will do well in long relief, if he ends up with that role (most probably). Plus, Bochy can alternate the Core Three with the young guys in the back end, giving the old vets even more rest while preparing the NextGen Core relievers to take over, as our older relievers are only contracted for 2016. I see Casilla returning, he seems to appreciate what the Giants have done for him, and Romo might return as well, but not at the $9M he's getting this season, I can see him possibly moving on, but Lopez will be 39 in 2017, and most probably gone.
Lastly, the lineup was pretty great last season when most of the key players were in the lineup. Which mostly only happened when Pence was in the lineup. The team averaged over 5 runs per game with him in the lineup. Even in his later games when Aoki was already out with his injuries (and back briefly) and replaced by poor hitting Blanco, Maxwell, and Aoki in his return, the team average over 5 runs scored per game.
The perspective people need here is that we have a great top 6 hitters in Posey, Belt, Panik, Duffy, Crawford, Pence. It will not matter all that much what the LF or Pagan will be doing, anything that they do will be the whip cream on the top of the yummy offensive sundae we got on the Giants. If the Giants decide to go into the penalty phase - and as I noted previously, while 30%, it is only on the overage, not the total amount, so the fee is relatively small if they can add a good player in the $10-15M range in LF.
And More: Team of the 2010 Decade with an Exclamation Point!
And the good times don't need to end in 2017. Our young hitters are still controlled to the end of the decade. Bumgarner is controlled to 2019 (there WILL be an extension, probably after either 2016 or 2017 season. And Samardzija is controlled to 2020. Cueto could be controlled to then, we'll see.
Meanwhile, the Giants have Blackburn, Stratton, Blach, Beede, Bickford, Mejia, Coonrod, Johnson all rising, some to take a cheap rotation spot, some to trade to get upgrades. We have a lot of pitchers coming up the reliever path like Black, Hall, Law, Okert, Gardeck, Diaz, Slania, Smith, Agosta, Crick, plus any starters who are pushed into relief roles. There is Arroyo, Williamson, Fox, Shaw, Miller, Fargas, Cole, Slater, Vizcaino, coming up, plus Susac and Tomlinson already here, plus Adrianza, who I still have hopes for.
Giants Musical Chairs Stopped for Leake
This signing also means that Leake is left out now. He is not returning to the Giants unless the Giants trade Peavy, which I don't see happening, since he and Bochy are good buddies. The good news for him is that the Giants move could force the Dodgers to be more aggressive, after losing Greinke, while the Giants added Cueto and Samardzija and D-backs added Greinke and Miller.
Heck, this could make the D-backs more eager to add Leake, so this could work out for Leake in the end, if this move accomplishes this, as he has really wanted to sign with Arizona, enough to keep the Giants away. Now it's ironic, but Evans said the market might move too slow for the Giants to sign Leake, but ends up the Giants signed two SP before Leake signs anywhere.
Some might note that the Giants ended up trading for Leake and losing a number of prospects, but it essentially ends up with the Giants getting Cueto instead of Leake in the following years, a clear upgrade and nothing to complain about. And the Giants don't lose a pick for Cueto either. To complain about this just makes you a Naysayer who hasn't given up your bias against Sabean and gang, even after 3 in 5.
Good Bye Lincecum
This also means good-bye to Lincecum unless he's willing to take a very small contract from the Giants, and basically would be competing with Heston for the long relief role. Given that his goal is to start, and there are a lot of rebuilding teams who should be willing to give him a small base MLB contract plus incentives PLUS a starting spot, I don't see how he does not move on from the Giants, unless he sees how great the Giants will be over the next two years and wants to be part of it, damn the role.
In addition, Heston still has at least one option left, as the Giants did note that perhaps he goes back to AAA to work on things, so the possibility is that the Giants could move him there to accommodate Lincecum on the roster. But this is highly unlikely, barring Lincecum being extremely sentimental and/or extremely exciting over being with the Giants in 2016. Thanks for everything Timmy, it has been great!
Payroll Budget Left
Per my calculations, the Giants only have $2.5M before passing penalty threshold and $6.1M before passing payroll target of $180M. So unless they make a trade for a pre-arb LF, they most likely will be going with Blanco as presumptive starting LF (as Evans alluded to as possibility in early pressers), with Blanks, Parker, and Williamson battling for the starting job as well. Though Pavlovic tweeted that a trade is possible.
The Giants are done spending money, for the most part. The have pushed the limits, surprisingly and happily. They are doing what a lot of fans have been begging for, to spend all the money possible to get repeats going in the coming years. It might not work out, but nobody can say that the Giants didn't go all-in for 2016-2017, they are right on the penalty threshold right now, even signing back Aoki, if he were available, would have pushed them over. The best that they can sign is probably someone like de Aza, or another low level free agent who had a bad year and is looking to rebuild his value. Or just want to be on this power-packed team who looks destined for greatness in the next two years.