No products in the cart.
The best thing about Johnny Cueto is that you can rave about him in two ways: what he did, and what he meant.
On the field, Cueto showed up in mid-May and nearly qualified for the ERA title, throwing at least six innings in 19 of 24 starts, and completing five innings in all but one of his 25 outings.
On the roster and on the payroll, Cueto meant so much more. Since he made a little more than $3 million, he effectively replaced 2021 Carlos Rodón in terms of bang for the buck. Since he replaced Dallas Keuchel in the rotation, you could combine their salaries and still feel good about the roster spot.
The Sox were incredibly fortunate to acquire Cueto’s services, because had everybody known how he was going to bounce back from the injury-wracked end to his chapter with the Giants, he would’ve been signed before the lockout. But he was willing to slow-play his offseason to wait for the ideal opportunity for a team with hopes, and Lance Lynn’s late-spring knee injury opened the door. The White Sox might not sabotaged their own chances, but for the entirety of his time on the roster, Cueto stood as a beacon of professionalism and self-sufficiency.
During the months where the rotation looked locked in with Lynn, Keuchel, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech, Vince Velasquez was the kind of starting pitcher who would take the Sox’s $3 million for whatever innings they could give him, and he ended up giving the Sox exactly what everybody should’ve expected, no more, no less.
Looking at the rest of the starters who were willing to sign a one-year deal for under $10 million, the Sox probably couldn’t have done any better, especially when considering who was willing to sign and when.
Martin Pérez and Tyler Anderson were the only ones to beat Cueto with their performances, and neither seemed especially likely to do it. Pérez had posted good halves before, but at age-31, he finally completed his first above-average season, while Anderson was another one of those Dodgers success stories.
José Quintana and Michael Wacha‘s seasons run alongside Cueto in terms of WAR, but White Sox fans should prefer the shape of Cueto’s production. Quintana chose well with the Pirates, whose cavernous left-center at PNC Park gave him a head start in stopping the bleeding against right-handed hitting over the years. Perhaps the dead ball would’ve helped him out even in more neutral settings, but the path he followed led to clearing 10 years of service time and a fine start in a postseason Game 1, neither of which would’ve been guaranteed with the Sox, so everybody should celebrate his choices. Wacha missed the entire month of July, so he still hasn’t topped 130 innings since 2017.
The rest of the field more or less merits a shrug, especially if they were looking for 20-plus starts of work. The Twins once again struggled in their bargain-bin hunting, whiffing on Chris Archer and Dylan Bundy (aside from Bundy’s work against the White Sox), and Michael Pineda teeted between injured and ineffective for the Tigers.
Maybe the Sox didn’t expect as much from Cueto as they received, and maybe they hoped Ethan Katz would have more time to help Velasquez take the next step, but it doesn’t matter. If the White Sox were hoping for one rotation fixture and one swingman willing to do the grunt work between the two signings, this is the one area where they got exactly what they needed.