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Arizona Diamondbacks consider Johnny Cueto

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Pitching. Pitching pitching. Pitching pitching-pitching pitching pitching. Yes, the Diamondbacks off-season is apparently continuing its theme.

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While Buster Olney's Insider article is mostly about why the Dodgers could decide to trade Yasiel Puig - and I don't think I'm spoilering it by saying the reason is, because he's a dick - buried (very) deep within, there was also a (tiny) nugget of interest to Diamondbacks readers.

The Diamondbacks are sleepers in the winter market, and one of the pitchers they’ve discussed internally as a possible target is Johnny Cueto.

Well, there you go. That's why you pay those Insider bucks. No, hang on: we already established the team probably has more money to spend than many think, and discussed Cueto as a staff ace. So, I guess we pay those Insider bucks for extended details of Puig's dickishness. Which seems like excellent value for money to me, actually, since there's not much better than hearing about a divisive influence in a division rival's clubhouse. Maybe we could swap him for Yasmany Tomas?

Anyway, back to Cueto. As noted, Preston kicked the tires on him, and came up with 5 years/$130 million as a possible contract. Yesferday, shoewizard crunched numbers his own way, and came up with six years, $150m as the likely asking price. Significant plus: he won't cost us a draft pick. Significant minus: the second half of either contract will probably end up more a burden than a pleasure. For the next couple of years, however, it should give us the front of the rotation pitcher we want.

That said, there were some worrying warning signs, particularly as the season wore on. Overall, Cueto's 117 ERA+ was his worst since 2010. In particular, there was nothing special about his performance after being dealt from Cincinnati to Kansas City, where he made 13 starts with a very pedestrian 4.76 ERA, striking out only 6.2 batters per nine innings, perhaps related to a drop in velocity. This was followed by a 5.40 ERA in the post-season for the Royals, albeit mostly due to one real horrorshow inning in the ALCS, where the Blue Jays scored six.

On the other hand, he did finish with a complete game in the World Series. This is a guy with a career 122 ERA+, and it would be nice not to have to face Cueto again, because he almost always done well against us. That goes all the way back to his major-league debut back in 2008, when he blanked the Diamondbacks over seven innings of one-hit ball, with 10 strikeouts. He's 6-1 in eight starts versus Arizona, with a 2.54 ERA, though his numbers at Chase aren't that good (five starts, 3.82 ERA).

He would certainly seem to be worth looking at, and is one of the upper tier free-agents this winter. Steamer currently has him projected for a 3.44 ERA, worth 4.1 fWAR in 2016, with 212 innings of work. If he delivers on this expectation, it would be a significant upgrade, though if there's one thing I did agree with Kevin Towers on, it's the dangers of giving long-term contracts to pitchers. I'd be a lot more comfortable with a four-year deal, even if, at age 29, Cueto is hardly over the hill. But the market price is likely to be higher, and that's a reality which has to be taken into account if the team wants one of the big starting names.