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.

Barry Zito rooted against his own team in the 2010 World Series

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Retired big league pitcher Barry Zito has a memoir coming out. Much of it will likely track the usual course of an athlete’s memoir. The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat and a few fun and/or sad and/or thoughtful anecdotes along the way. One bit of it, though, is not the stuff of the usual athlete memoir.

He writes that he ctually rooted against the San Francisco Giants — his own team —  in the 2010 World Series. He did so because he was left off the postseason roster, felt miserable about it and let his ego consume him. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

“It was really hard to admit . . . I rooted against the team because my ego was in full control and if we lost then I could get out of there . . . It would a) prove they couldn’t do it without me, and b) take me out of the situation because I was so miserable coming to the field every day. I was so deep in shame. I wanted out of that situation so bad.”

Zito at that point was midway through a seven-year, $126 million contract he signed with the Giants after the 2006 season. Almost as soon as he signed it he transformed from one of the better pitchers in the game — he had a 124 ERA+ in eight seasons with the Oakland Athletics and won the 2002 Cy Young Award — to being a liability for the Giants. Indeed, he only had one season in San Francisco where, again, by ERA+, he was a league-average starter or better. In 2010 he went 9-14 with a 4.15 ERA and was way worse than that down the stretch. It made perfect sense for the Giants to leave him off the 2010 postseason roster. And, of course, it worked out for them.

Things would improve. He’d still generally struggle as a Giant, but in 2012 he was a hero of the NLCS, pitching the Giants past the Cardinals in a must-win game. He then got the Game 1 start in the World Series and beat Justin Verlander as the Giants won that game and then swept the Tigers out of the series. As time went on he’d fine more personal happiness as well. When his contract ended following the 2013 season Zito took out a full-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle thanking Giants fans for their support. He’d leave the game in 2014 and pitch three more games for the Athletics in 2015 before retiring for good.

Not many baseball memoirs deliver hard truths like Zito’s appears willing to do. That’s pretty damn brave of him. And pretty damn admirable.