During the 2014 season, Johnny Cueto threw 244 innings for the Reds.  He struck out 242 batters and allowed just 6.2 hits per nine innings.  His earned run average finished at 2.25….pitching half his games in the best hitters’ park outside of Colorado.  Cueto’s ERA+ was 163, his FIP 3.30, his ERA- was 61.   Pick a number, they are all good.  With Johnny Cueto, they are almost always all good.

Don’t care about last year?  Well, in 2015, Cueto has tossed 131 innings, stuck out 120, allowed 6.4 hits per nine innings, fashioned a 2.65 ERA and an ERA+ of 145.  His FIP is 3.12 and Cueto has already provided 2.9 fWAR. I was told that Cueto had a bad May and he did, for him, allowing a 4.45 ERA. In other words, the worst month (by far) that Cueto had was better than what the Royals have gotten this year from Jeremy Guthrie, Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy (before his last two starts).

Johnny Cueto is a Kansas City Royal.

You can name some major league pitchers who are better than Johnny Cueto, but the list is not very long.

Johnny Cueto is a Kansas City Royal and, by the way, Raul Mondesi, Kyle Zimmer, Sean Manaea and Miguel Almonte are still members of the Royals’ organization.  The Royals did have to give up John Lamb, Brandon Finnegan and Cody Reed.

Sure, Finnegan was a great story last season and gave the Royals some decent innings in relief this year, but he was seventh reliever in a stacked bullpen and very little progress had been made in 2015 towards steering Finnegan back to a starter. I have little doubt Brandon Finnegan will have a long major league career, but many doubts that much of it will be spent being an effective starter. It is also doubtful that Finnegan was slated for many (if any) critical innings the final months of the season or in the post-season.

John Lamb is another great story and a guy you would have hated to trade away in say, 2011.  As it is, even a great half season in AAA seemed to do little to advance Lamb’s status with the organization. Joe Blanton and Yohan Pino got starts while Lamb staying in Omaha. Once he profiled as a top of the rotation starter, now he looks to be a back of the rotation guy….and one who has yet to throw a major league pitch.

Quite honestly, the name that might come back to haunt you in this deal might be Reed.  Hat tip to Clint Scoles (@clintscoles) who, after speculation that Sean Manaea’s medicals might be an issue on Saturday night offered that Reed was a pitcher that might be a suitable replacement. Reed, however, was just moved up to AA.  I thought a lot of guys were going to be stars when they were in AA that never went anywhere.

These three guys all have potential, but they all have question marks and none of them will ever by Johnny Cueto.  Of course, the argument goes, the Royals only get Cueto for a short period of time.  There is this ‘I don’t like rentals’ sentiment that runs perilously close to being a ‘get off my lawn’ mindset.  There is also the ‘hate to part with prospects’ mentality, drummed into many of us when all we had as Royals’ fans was the hope of prospects. I’m not buying either mindset.  This was at worst a fair trade and quite possibly a clear win for the Royals.

In the end, this trade really comes down to this:

  • Are the Royals more likely to win a World Series with Johnny Cueto on this team THIS year or more likely to win a title with Finnegan, Lamb and Reed paired with what is left in 2017?

Truthfully, the acquisition of ‘just a rental’ this year does not really effect the team’s ability to be a good team in 2016 given that Reed likely would not yet be ready, Lamb would – at best – be a rookie at the back of the rotation and Finnegan would almost certainly be in a similar role as this year.

While I was at the forefront of the ‘Royals need a bat more than an arm’ movement, I freaking love this trade. Some claim all this gets the Royals is just a handful of Cueto starts, but the math indicates that it gets them FOURTEEN regular season starts and, knock wood, at least two starts a piece in three post-season series. Maybe that is just a handful, but it is a damn valuable handful.

Couple Cueto with the just maybe possible resurgence of Danny Duffy and a hopeful start from Yordano Ventura and all of a sudden, the Kansas City Royals can at least dream about being four deep in starting pitching with the best and deepest bullpen in the game.  Say what you want about teams acquiring aces not parlaying that acquisition into post-season success, but I like the idea that Jeremy Guthrie and Chris Young (as good as he has been, he falters in the second half with regularity and, by the way, do you want a flyball pitcher on the mound in a playoff game in Houston?) never being considered for a post-season start.

I like the idea that Dayton Moore and the Royals are buyers at the trade deadline. I like the idea that an organization and a general manager who have always relied on staying the course this time said that a seven game lead in the division is not enough.  This was a move made to make the Kansas City Royals THE team to beat, not just one of the teams. And it was a bold move made without giving up any of the very best prospects in the system.

Johnny Cueto is a Kansas City Royal.

Today is a very good day.