To say Johnny Cueto has been good so far in 2014 for the Cincinnati Reds would be an incredible understatement. Including today’s game, he has thrown at least eight innings for his sixth straight start — and in nine season starts, he has thrown at least seven innings in each.
Just how good has Cueto been for Cincinnati?
Johnny Cueto is first pitcher since 1914 to open the season with 9 straight starts of at least 7 IP and 2 runs or fewer. #LightsOut
— MLB Stat of the Day (@MLBStatoftheDay) May 15, 2014
Most consecutive starts of 8+ IP since 2000: Cliff Lee (2010) 10 Johnny Cueto (2014) 6 Roy Halladay (2007) 6 Mark Mulder (2003) 6
— Joel Luckhaupt (@jluckhaupt) May 15, 2014
In each start, Cueto has allowed two or fewer runs and five or fewer hits (including three hits six times). With three complete games and two shutouts now, his ERA sits at 1.25 over 72 innings. As of this moment, Cueto leads all of baseball in strikeouts and ERA.
Simply put, Cueto is currently the best starting pitcher in baseball. However, he isn’t being paid as such. In 2015, the Reds own a team option for their ace for just $10 million.
Let’s take a look at how Cueto compares to some of the highest paid pitchers in baseball:
Johnny Cueto (seven years): 3.40 ERA; four years, $27 million (contract signed in 2011)
Zack Greinke (11): 3.62; six years, $147 million (2013)
Cliff Lee (13): 3.50; five years, $120 million (2011)
CC Sabathia (14): 3.63; seven years, $161 million
Justin Verlander (10): 3.40; seven years, $180 million (2013)
Excluding Clayton Kershaw and Feliz Hernandez, Cueto has the best career ERA when compared to some of the top paid starting pitchers in the game. However, each one of those names above is making more than $20 million this year while Cueto is making $10 million in 2014. And looking at the statistics, is there any reason why Cueto shouldn’t be paid comparably to these pitchers?
The most comparable on that list above, with regards to the type of contract Cueto deserves, would be Verlander. Considering Cueto is three years younger, it is conceivable that the Reds’ ace could demand even more than Verlander’s $25.7 annual income. And if the team was willing to give Homer Bailey $105 million over six years, imagine what Cueto can demand from Bob Castellini.
With the Reds’ comfortably controlling Cueto through 2015, it gives the team time to find the money needed in order to sign their ace long term — and they will need lots of it. Cueto is no longer just the best pitcher in Cincinnati; he is the best pitcher in all of baseball right now.
So go ahead, Castellini; back up that Brinks truck and give the man whatever it takes to keep him in the Queen City.