Reds starter Johnny Cueto delivered a ground rule double in the third inning Sunday, giving him his first extra-base hit in his 217th major league at-bat.
Cueto entered the day with a lifetime .088/.124/.088 line and four RBI in 216 at-bats. He was 2-for-24 with 10 strikeouts this season.
Apparently, the rare need for him to run the bases exhausted him; he had water brought to the mound for him while he was working in the fourth.
Cueto continued to pitch well afterwards, though. He allowed just one run in seven innings against the Mets to improve to 8-3 on the season.
Cueto’s .088 slugging percentage at the beginning of the day was the 11th lowest for anyone with at least 200 career plate appearances (since 1900). The all-time low mark belonged to Rob Herbel, a 1960’s pitcher who hit .029/.065/.034 in 206 at-bats. Among the more recent pitchers to fare worse than Cueto were Brian Moehler (.045/.098/.054 in 202 AB) and Ben Sheets (.078/.115/.085 in 436 AB).
In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.
“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.
Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.