Johnny Cueto and the Reds finalize long-term extension

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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.

Tommy La Stella talks about his refusal to report to the minors in 2016

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In late July of 2016, Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella was demoted to Triple-A. It wasn’t personal. It was a roster crunch situation and La Stella had options left so, despite the fact that he had been an effective player to that point of the season, it made sense to send him down.

La Stella didn’t take the demotion well. In fact he refused to report to Iowa and went home to New Jersey instead. It was not until August 17 that he finally reported and then only after prolonged discussions with the Cubs and the assurance that he’d be back in the majors once rosters opened up. Which he was, after spending just over a week down on the farm.

Such a move by a player would, normally speaking, make him persona non-grata. His teammates would shun him and the organization would, eventually, cut bait, with the press characterizing him as a me-first player as he walked out the door. That did not happen with La Stella, however, who remains with the Cubs two years later and, by all accounts, is a popular and important guy in the Cubs’ clubhouse, even if he’s not one of the team’s big stars.

Today Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has an in-depth story about La Stella, what went down in 2016 and how he and the Cubs have proceeded since then. The story is subscription only, but the short version is that there was a lot of understanding and empathy on the part of the Cubs organization and their players about what was going on in La Stella’s head at the time and how everyone allowed everyone else the space to work through it.

I’m happy to read this story, because all too often we only hear about such incidents as they occur, with little followup. To the extent the story is told, most of the time its completely one-sided, with the player who acts out being treated like a bad seed with little if any explanation of his side of things. And, yes, there are always two sides to the story. Sometimes even more.

Kudos to Rosenthal for telling this story. Here’s hoping the next time a player is involved in a controversy that, in the moment, makes him appear to be a bad seed or have a bad attitude, we hear more about it then too.