This afternoon the Reds officially announced the long-term contract extension with Johnny Cueto that was first reported last week.
Cueto, who was arbitration eligible for the first time this season and submitted a figure of $3.9 million, gets a four-year deal worth an estimated $27 million and the Reds also hold an undisclosed team option for 2015.
In other words, they bought out all three of his arbitration-eligible seasons and his first year of free agency, with the option to buy out his second year of free agency as well. Cincinnati now controls Cueto through his age-29 season.
Ranked among baseball’s elite pitching prospects while coming up through the minors, Cueto surprisingly won a spot in the Opening Day rotation as a 22-year-old in 2008 and has sliced his ERA from 4.81 to 4.41 to 3.64 in three seasons. He hasn’t racked up quite as many strikeouts as his minor-league numbers and raw stuff suggested was possible, but Cueto looks likely to be a solid No. 2 starter long term.
The Arizona Fall League competition came to a close on Saturday, concluding with the Peoria Javelinas’ 8-2 win over the Mesa Solar Sox for the championship title. No one stood out more than Braves’ no. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna, who took home honors as the AFL MVP after slashing .325/.414/.639 with a league-leading seven home runs and second-best 1.053 OPS in 83 at-bats.
At just 19 years old, Acuna is the youngest prospect to receive the award. He made his presence felt even before he suited up for the AFL, earning promotions to the Braves’ Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett and batting a remarkable .325/.374/.522 with 21 home runs across three levels in 2017.
Acuna was also a major factor in the Javelinas’ win on Saturday, but he wasn’t the first to make some noise. The Solar Sox got to right-hander T.J. Zeuch in the first inning, leading off with three singles and a run-scoring sac fly to get a 2-0 edge over the Javelinas. It was the only lead they’d get all afternoon and it lasted just two innings. Luis Urias snapped the shutout with a sac fly in the bottom of the second inning, and the Javelinas took the lead with a game-tying RBI single from Acuna and two-run base hit from Braves’ no. 16 prospect Alex Jackson in the third.
From then on, it was smooth sailing for Peoria. Andrew Case, Andres Munoz and Art Warren combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief, while the offense tacked on another handful of runs with Acuna’s fourth-inning two-RBI single and Michael Chavis’ eighth-inning triple. With runners at the corners and one out, the Solar Sox lifted right-hander Dakota Bacus for fellow righty Nolan Blackwood. Even he was flummoxed by Acuna, however, who grabbed hold of the first pitch he saw and returned another sac fly to center field for the Javelinas’ eighth and final run of the game.
Only 131 days left until Opening Day, folks.