The Kansas City Royals traded for Johnny Cueto at the trade deadline to get their team a World Series crown. Despite his well below average short tenure with the Royals, Cueto’s complete game win in Game 2 last night alone makes the trade worth everything. The dominant performance that put the Royals up 2-0 on the New York Mets cancelled out all the bad starts he had after the late summer trade from the Cincinnati Reds.
Throw in the eight inning, two run performance in the ALDS clincher against the Houston Astros and the trade becomes even more worthwhile despite the 4.76 ERA and 4-7 record he accumulated in his 13 regular-season starts post trade. Even in his other postseason games, Cueto did not perform like the ace he was supposed to be when acquired. He went six innings and gave up four runs against the Astros in ALDS Game 1 and he got lit up for eight runs in just two innings in his ALCS start against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The trade cost the Royals their top pitching prospect in Brandon Finnegan, along with fellow left-handed starting pitching prospects John Lamb and Cody Reed. Finnegan was on the Royals’ World Series roster last season after just being drafted that June, and Lamb was 9-1 with 2.67 ERA in Triple-A at the time of the trade. They were mortgaging their future for the now. They were so close to taking it all last season, and after losing James Shields in the offseason, coupled with a struggling Yordano Ventura at the time, the Royals needed a true ace. Cueto struggled to adjust to the American League, but Ventura picked up his performance and Edinson Volquez had a tremendous year to help just get the Royals into the playoffs. They had a little help from a weak division as well.
A small-market team like the Royals has to take chances like this sometimes. They won’t be able to keep all their players when they hit the free agent market, so they must go for it while they have all the guys together before it’s too late. You only get so many chances to be in a window where you have a championship caliber team, so the trade for Cueto was totally justifiable. I’m sure GM Dayton Moore was pulling his hair out wondering if he made the wrong move at times when Cueto was struggling in August and September, but now he can sit there and know he was right on the money.
The dominant performance set the Royals up pretty. The Mets now must win four out of five games to be champions, as opposed to the Royals just needing to win two more. At the very worst, the Royals will come back home for the final two games down 3-2, but it’s hard to see the Mets winning three in a row against this Royals team. Cueto out-dueled Jacob deGrom and rested a depleted Royals bullpen. It was a best-case scenario for the Royals. They are poised to pounce and take home a World Series crown thanks to the right arm of their hired gun and the phone calls Moore put in to get him. Worth every dime.