Padres News: Padres Sends Scouts to Watch Johnny Cueto

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A.J. Preller may have locked on to his next target. According to Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News, the San Diego Padres sent Randy Smith, Special Advisor of Baseball Operations, to watch Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto’s most recent start. Cueto is set to become a free agent following this season and the Reds, despite a solid start to the season, aren’t shaping to be contenders this year; especially the the St. Louis Cardinals leading the division. While the Reds have said they want to extend Cueto, they’re running out of time.

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Cueto, last year’s runner up for the Cy Young Award, has been one the games best pitchers in baseball for the past five seasons. Since 2011 he’s gone 56-28 while posting a 2.52 ERA in 735 2/3 innings, the second best ERA in that period of time behind only Clayton Kershaw.

His 1.05 WHIP in that span is also second only to Kershaw, while his 14.0 WAR is 18th best. It’s pretty easy to see that Cueto is as much of an ace as anyone in baseball. That’s why all eyes are on him every time he takes the mound. Acquiring the 29 year old would be a significant upgrade to any contenders’ rotation – like the Padres aspire to be this season.

However, do the Padres need a starter of Cueto’s magnitude? Last season the Padres boasted one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, then added James Shields and Brandon Morrow this off-season; both of whom have gotten of to hot starts in 2015.

The Padres pitching staff as a whole has been a little disappointing, but they’ve pitched better than their 14-12 record suggests. Their 3.91 ERA is 12th best in the majors and they’ve gone deep into ball games, pitching the 4th most innings. Interestingly enough though, their combined 1.2 WAR is 4th worst in the majors and barely edges out Cueto himself, who boasts a 1.1 WAR.

Overall, the pitching staff isn’t in dire need of an upgrade today, but in the postseason an arm of Cueto’s caliber could make a huge difference.

As the whole world saw Madison Bumgarner carry the Giants to a World Series title last postseason, Cueto could be that guy for someone else. The Padres already have an ace caliber starter in Shields, but people have questioned his ability to perform in the playoffs.

That being said, Cueto hasn’t exactly been himself in the playoffs either. In three postseason starts, he’s gone 0-2 with a 5.19 ERA and the one start he didn’t lose, he only faced one batter before being pulled due to an injury. Also this happened his last postseason start:

I don’t want to hold that against Cueto, but anybody who would question Shields past postseason performance would raise similar concerns for Cueto.

So long story short, everyone should want Cueto, but the Padres don’t need him. With the farm system already thin, going after a big name like Cueto for only a half season – who doesn’t upgrade an area of need – just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

That being said, Preller has shown a willingness to go all in for this year and I’ve learned not to be surprised by any moves that he makes.

What do you guys think, should the Padres make a deal for Cueto?

Next: Myers and Upton Injury Updates

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