The Houston Astros Should Trade for Johnny Cueto

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Johnny Cueto is the Chosen One

Jun 2, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) follows through a pitch during the third inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Cueto is a starting pitcher born in the Dominican Republic in February of 1986 which makes him 29-years-old. He has seven years of MLB experience, after his debut in 2008 with the Reds. He is in his last year of a five-year $36.2 million contract, so he will be a free agent after the season. He will be a rental pitcher for the 2015 season who Jeff Luhnow would have to woo to stay with Houston.

While I would probably be happy with any of the big three trade targets, looking at what Cueto did last year is an example of a dominating season. Last season with the Reds, Cueto had a 2.25 ERA in 34 games started while striking out 242 batters in 243.2 innings. He won 20 games last year, so he knows how to keep the team in the game. That was the first time in Cueto’s career that he struck out over 200 hitters, so an arm like his could be well-sought after.

This season, he has a 5-5 record with a 2.84 ERA in 15 starts, in which he has struck out 100 hitters in 104.2 innings. This is on a bad Reds team, so imagine what he could do on the high scoring Astros team. Cueto finished second the NL Cy Young award in 2014 losing to some guy named Clayton Kershaw. (Stats from Baseball Reference)

According to FanGraphs, Cueto has a 42.4% groundball rate, a 36.7% flyball rate, and a 1.16 groundball to flyball ratio. His groundball rate is not quite the same as Dallas Keuchel’s 64.5% and 4.27 groundball to flyball ratio, but should play okay at Minute Maid Park.

Cueto lives on the fastball 52.4% of the time which an average speed of 92.5 mph according to FanGraphs. His next two best pitches are his cutter (19.3%, 88.4 mph) and his changeup (17.3%, 83.5 mph). He also has a curveball and slider but does not rely on it too often. His control has also improved this year, as his walk percentage decreased from 6.8% in 2014 to 4.9% in 2015.

He would fit well in the Astros rotation and allow the Astros to save some innings for McCullers for the playoffs. Even though Keuchel would still be the teams ace, Cueto would provide an excellent complement to Keuchel’s pitching style. He appears like a fun loving guy, and could fit into the “Club Astro” atmosphere here.

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The Astros are good earlier than most people thought, and this opportunity to go to the playoffs next year is not guaranteed. The Astros need to bring in a second dominant pitcher to help ensure that the Astros reach the playoffs and create the makings of a great playoff rotation. McHugh and McCullers would round out the rotation, with one if the leagues best bullpens.

Below is a quote from the Cincinnati Reads team website titled, Cueto brilliant amid trade speculation by Mark Sheldon .

"“Johnny is special. He’s so strong mentally,” Pena said. “People don’t realize how strong he is mentally. He reads. He watches TV, and he listens. For him to go out there and put everything on the side, and just focus on going out there and doing what he does best, that’s impressive.”- Mark Sheldon."

If the Astros trade for Cueto, they could use some of their financial flexibility to offer him a contract to keep him in Houston.

Next: Possible Package for Cueto