Perhaps it’s the smaller workload of 2020, or perhaps it’s the results during that workload. But Johnny Cueto will do something different this offseason.
After a rough season in which he totaled 63 1/3 innings, the 34-year-old will pitch in the Dominican Winter League, according to an ESPN report.
The league is more reserved for players and prospects seeking additional reps to better their chances of breakouts or chances of making a roster (or for Dominicans who just want to play). But Cueto, who hasn’t appeared in the league in 12 years, reportedly has joined Estrellas Orientales, which is managed by Jose Alguacil, a former Giants big-league coach who was set to be the manager of Double-A Richmond this season.
Farhan Zaidi said Wednesday that the move is not official.
“We’ve had conversations with Johnny about it,” Zaidi said about Cueto, who was born in San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic. “For somebody that’s as big of a name and a star down there as he is, it’s a big deal to be able to pitch in that Winter League, and it means a lot to a lot of people.”
It will mean something to the Giants to have Cueto there working on his craft, too. Among qualified starters last season, Cueto’s 5.40 ERA was the second worst in baseball (Detroit’s Matthew Boyd came in at 6.71). Cueto got worse as the season got longer, posting a 6.40 ERA in his last six starts.
He pitched differently under the new Giants pitching minds, throwing his fastball less and changeup more than ever, which was his best pitch. Still, pitching in his first full season since Tommy John surgery, he was the wrong kind of anchor for the club.
“There’s interest in having him pitch there. My understanding is there hasn’t been a final determination, but those are definitely conversations we’ve had with him and his representation,” Zaidi said about Cueto over the Zoom news conference.
Cueto is due $21 million for next season, so he will not be moved. He and Kevin Gausman are the only sure-things in a rotation that needs replenishing. Logan Webb will still be around, and Tyler Beede hopes to return at some point next season. The Giants will have a decision to make about Tyler Anderson, who’s arbitration eligible, and just lost Drew Smyly to the Braves.