Johnny Cueto bolsters Cy Young case with eight scoreless innings

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Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto didn’t make the NL All-Star team, but he might well be the league’s Cy Young Award winner this season.

Cueto threw eight innings of three-hit ball and combined with Aroldis Chapman on a shutout of the Cubs on Sunday, giving him his 15th victory of the season.

Cueto is now tied with the Mets’ R.A. Dickey for the NL lead in wins, and he’s third with a 2.45 ERA, putting him ahead of Dickey at 2.72. The two pitchers ahead of him in ERA, Ryan Vogelsong (2.27) and Jordan Zimmermann (2.35), have 10 and nine victories, respectively, leaving them with an uphill climb if they hope to figure into the Cy Young race.

Cueto doesn’t measure up with others in the dominance stats. He ranks 17th in the NL with 127 strikeouts, and his 1.16 WHIP is 12th. Still, from a performance standpoint, he matches up pretty well with anyone in the league right now. A big reason: he’s given up just eight homers.

Despite being on a pace that would put him well above his career high for innings, Cueto thus far has managed to avoid his typical second-half slump. In each of his previous four major league seasons, he had a higher ERA after the break than before. That still holds true this year, too, but he’s currently 5-1 with a 2.61 ERA in the second half after going 10-5 with a 2.39 ERA in the first.

Colby Rasmus could start 2017 on the disabled list

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Colby Rasmus isn’t ready to take outfield reps just yet. According to Rays’ manager Kevin Cash, that’s a red flag, one that could potentially postpone Rasmus’ debut as the club’s designated hitter and outfielder in 2017. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Rasmus will need to prove he can play a defensive position before getting cleared for the active roster, something which the veteran outfielder has yet to do this spring.

Rasmus, 30, signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Rays following his two-year run with the Astros. He batted a meager .206/.286/.355 with 15 home runs and a .641 OPS in 2016 and was shut down in late September with an unspecified hip/groin issue. Entering the 2017 season, he’s expected to work his way back to a full-time role after undergoing surgery to repair his core muscle and left hip labrum last October.

The Rays also finalized their one-year, $1.2 million deal with catcher Derek Norris on Saturday and will need to clear room for him on the 40-man roster. Topkin speculates that the move could send Rasmus to the 60-day disabled list, though the outfielder is not projected to miss more than a couple weeks of the regular season.

Report: Rangers agree to six-year extension with Rougned Odor

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The Rangers have reportedly agreed to a six-year, $49.5 million extension for second baseman Rougned Odor, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The extension comes with a club option for a seventh year, Heyman adds.

It’s close to the six-year, $52.5 million extension Jason Kipnis netted with the Indians in 2014, a sum Odor was rumored to be seeking during contract negotiations over the last two years. Granted, the circumstances are a little different this time around. Both players signed extensions on the cusp of their fourth year in the major leagues, but at 27 years old, Kipnis was coming off of an All-Star campaign and a career-high 4.5 fWAR performance. Odor, meanwhile, saw mixed results in 2016, batting 33 home runs and putting up 2.0 fWAR while struggling to stay consistent at the plate and exhibiting poor defense.

According to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, Odor previously agreed to a $563,180 salary for 2017. Depending on when the extension kicks in, it should cover all three of Odor’s arbitration-eligible seasons and two seasons of potential free agency. The team has yet to confirm the extension.