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.
Baseball American reports today that total attendance at minor league baseball games reached a 14-year low in 2018. Total attendance was 40,450,337. That’s a drop of 1,382,027 fans compared to last season.
Around a third of that drop is attributable to fewer scheduled games but, as Baseball America notes, even when you go to average attendance per game, there was a sharp drop off this season. BA suggests that this represents a leveling off after over a decade’s worth of large increases in minor league attendance. Which sound pretty plausible. Overall, attendance numbers are still massively above where they were 15-20 years ago, so this seems more like a correction than a real problem. The BA article goes into some good analysis of the decline.
All of that said, revenues are up for the minors, in large part because of merchandise sales and because minor league ballparks have a lot more amenities and better concessions than they used to have and fans are willing to pay for them.