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Johnny Cueto could be a $130 million bargain

Tuesday's Say Hey, Baseball includes Johnny Cueto's signing, what's left of the free agent market, and Pete Rose's reinstatement case.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

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Johnny Cueto should have been one of the $200 million pitchers. Instead, he felt a twinge in his elbow in May, and even though the scans came back clean, his second half was just inconsistent enough -- especially for a pitcher who has been consistently fantastic for years now -- that it put fear into teams who would have been willing to pay him that much. He rebounded a bit in the playoffs, helping to lead the Royals to the World Series, but the damage was done, and Cueto wasn't going to be paid $200 million.

How much he would get was still up for questioning, though, and while the Diamondbacks' initial offer of $120 million over six years seemed light, the right-hander would end up signing with the Giants for $130 million over six. Of course, he also got an opt out after just two years, and that's the only reason he agreed to less than $22 million per year, so it's a little tough to analyze the long-term value of the deal given that. However, there is a real shot for Cueto to be a bargain here at that price tag: if he's healthy and the Cueto he was prior to the second half of 2015, the Giants just signed one of the game's very best at a second-tier price tag.

Between 2011 and 2014, Cueto posted a 156 ERA+, second only to Clayton Kershaw in that stretch, minimum 600 innings. He missed time with injury in 2013, but then bounced back with 243 frames and a 163 ERA+ in 2014, and has racked up over 200 innings in three of the last four seasons. If the Giants get some version of that for two years -- and Cueto is only 30, so he certainly could still be in his peak -- then it won't be Madison Bumgarner playing the role of ace in San Francisco. Cueto has to stay healthy, of course, and prove that his second half was a blip. If not, then $130 million doesn't seem like so much of a bargain anymore.