Report: Johnny Cueto seeking $200 million “or thereabouts”

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The Reds and starter Johnny Cueto didn’t reach an agreement on a contract extension before the right-hander’s Opening Day deadline. In fact, the Reds were so sure they wouldn’t be able to strike a deal, they didn’t appear to have even submitted an offer to Cueto, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports. Per Heyman, Cueto is reportedly seeking a $200 million contract “or thereabouts”.

Cueto, 29, is coming off of the best season of his career, finishing second in NL Cy Young balloting to Clayton Kershaw. He posted a 2.25 ERA and a 242/65 K/BB ratio in 243 2/3 innings. Cueto has finished with an ERA below 2.85 in each of the last three seasons (min. 20 starts).

Given the recent contracts signed by Max Scherzer ($210 million over seven years) and Jon Lester ($155 million over six years), it’s understandable why Cueto is holding out for a big payday. However, he’ll be joining a very crowded market for free agent starting pitchers this off-season. Barring new extensions, he’ll be joined by Doug Fister, Yovani Gallardo, Scott Kazmir, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, David Price, Jeff Samardzija, Jordan Zimmermann, and potentially Zack Greinke if he opts out of his contract with the Dodgers. The saturation of the starting pitching market could take a year or two and quite a few million off of Cueto’s final price.

The Reds should be expected to shop Cueto heavily leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.

Report: Twins sign Erick Aybar to minor-league deal

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The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.

Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.

Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.