The Kansas City Royals just sent a strong message to the rest of baseball by trading for Cincinnati Reds Johnny Cueto, as first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
For the 2015 season, this is a great move for the Royals as they can now add an ace with a 2.62 ERA to a starting rotation that ranks just 10th in the American League with a 4.27 ERA. The Royals, who lead the AL Central by a comfortable 7.5 games, now have to be considered a favourite to return to the World Series, where they came one game short of winning it all a year ago.
However, this trade is also an enormous gamble for the Royals and could be costly if they don’t win a championship.
In order to add Cueto for the playoff push, the Royals had to give up three pitchers, Brandon Finnegan, Cody Reed, and John Lamb, whom Jim Callis of MLB.com says have “major upside.“
“All three of the lefties acquired by Cincinnati have a chance to be big league starters. The highest profile belongs to Finnegan, who made history in 2014 as the first player to appear in the College World Series and World Series in the same calendar year. The 17th overall pick the 2014 Draft.”
Jeff Passan of Yahoo echoes this sentiment, saying the Reds got good trade value in the three prospects but that it was a deal the Royals “needed to make.”
Reds did really well with getting three power arms in Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed, but it’s a deal the Royals needed to make.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 26, 2015
Giving up prospects for a a few months of a proven big leaguer is nothing new. Giving up three good prospects for a player who will be a free agent after the season is something that has become more rare in an era that places a premium on prospects more so than ever before. A low-revenue team giving up three future low-cost assets for a chance to win it all is almost unheard of.
Last season, the Royals ranked 16th in MLB in total revenue ($US231 million), according to Forbes, and that was with the profitable run in the postseason. The year before, their revenue was estimated to be just $US178 million, 29th in MLB.
If we consider that a team can potentially keep a player for up to seven seasons before they hit free agency, the Royals just gave up to 21 seasons of cost-controlled talent for a three-month rental. That’s a gamble for any team. It’s an enormous gamble for the Royals specifically.
There are also concerns about Cueto’s health as he missed time earlier this year with an elbow issue and prior to the eight shutout innings in his most recent start, he has struggled recently.
Asked an exec of a team interested in Johnny Cueto if they saw anything to be alarmed about in his start Sunday. He said: “Yes. Everything.”
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) July 21, 2015
In this case, the Royals just need Cueto to stay healthy for three more months, but it is something that will still linger in the back of everybody’s mind every time he takes the mound.
If Kansas City wins the World Series, the gamble will have paid off. However, anything less and there is a good chance this will be a big loss for the Royals.
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