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The D-Backs want what they can't have in Johnny Cueto

Tuesday's Say Hey, Baseball includes the Diamondbacks' offer for Johnny Cueto, why the Tigers signed Jordan Zimmermann and the relief market. Subscribe for your daily Say Hey!

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

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Johnny Cueto turned down a six-year, $120 million contract offer from the Diamondbacks this past weekend. Apparently, the D-Backs are still interested in attempting to sign Cueto, but the story is that his value is now higher because of Jordan Zimmermann's $110 million deal that will pay him $22 million annually. If they actually believe as much, then this mostly goes to show you that the D-Backs aren't quite sure what they're doing in this end of the free agent pool: Cueto was always going to make more money than Jordan Zimmermann, even before Zimmermann's down 2015. All his signing did was reemphasize how much the D-Backs' offer looks like an opening one rather than a final.

The most recent report is that Cueto is looking for $140 million to $160 million, which sounds about right. His 2015 had a rough go of things as he adjusted to life on the Royals, but we're still talking about a pitcher who won't turn 30 until spring training of next year and has a 2.71 ERA overall since 2011, despite most of his home games coming in a hitter's park. In reality, he should probably be worth more, but he's in a market that also has Zack Greinke and David Price in it: there are only so many teams willing to spend the kind of money it takes to get a front-line starter through free agency each winter, and Cueto's injury history and inconsistency over the last two months have him pegged as the third of three aces.

Whether that's fair doesn't matter so much, and he's still going to get paid even if he's viewed through that lens. He's going to get more than what the Diamondbacks are offering, though. Will the D-Backs increase their offer? It seems unlikely they'll do so in a meaningful fashion, considering their history of spending -- or rather, of not spending, as just one payroll in the last decade topped $100 million. The Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs and Giants have also given Cueto a call, and all of them have more money to spend than Arizona. Zimmermann or no, there was no reason for Cueto to accept the $120 million offer he was submitted. The deal he eventually gets will prove as much.