The Yankees, Orioles and Blue Jays were scouting Johnny Cueto yesterday

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My theory — which is probably wrong given that it involves a prediction — is that whichever of the AL East teams picks up a good starting pitcher will have the inside track on that tight race. Well, unless it’s the Rays, who need a bat. Among the Blue Jays, Yankees and Orioles, however, a top starter should help elevate them to favorite status.

All three were on the scene in Washington last night to scout Johnny Cueto, Joel Sherman reports. They likely liked what they saw, given that he tossed a shutout.

Given how many teams could use a starting pitcher — add the Astros, Dodgers and Tigers to this list — and you have to figure Cueto will come at a higher price than most three-month rentals would. That could pose problems for the Yankees, who don’t exactly have a ton of top team-controlled talent to woo the Reds. That’s not quite as true for the other AL East teams, but it’s not like their systems are loaded either.

Over at Sporting News today Jesse Spector floats a neat idea: someone willing to eat some salary could trade relatively little for Cueto in terms of talent but maybe take on a bad contract from the Reds such as Brandon Phillips’. Intriguing, NBA-style idea, much like the Braves did in their trades with San Diego and Arizona recently.

Cueto may be the top pitcher available right now. So he’s worth watching. And everyone seems to be watching him.