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.

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.