According to a report from Steve Gilbert of MLB.com, the Diamondbacks offered free agent pitcher Johnny Cueto a 6-year, $120 million contract during a recent meeting. The news doesn't stop there however, as Cueto turned the offer down.
Cueto, who is in the still-great second-tier of free agent pitchers with the likes of Hisashi Iwakuma and Wei-Yin Chen, might be one of the better options on the market not named David Price or Zack Greinke. Though he struggled somewhat as a new member of the Royals, Cueto settled into a groove down the stretch, posting his third four-win season (by FanGraphs WAR). Furthermore, Cueto is only going into his age-30 season.
This news comes the evening after the Tigers signed Jordan Zimmermann to a 5-year deal worth $110 million. Like Cueto, Zimmermann is also going into his age-30 season, so perhaps Cueto should be more open to a contract worth an average annual value between $20-$22 million. That being said, Zimmermann came off the market earlier than some expected and the Tigers have a more recent history of winning than the Diamondbacks.
There's a lot to parse from this report. Perhaps it means Cueto will accept less to play for a more defined contender. The Diamondbacks do have some building blocks to contend, but will still have to compete against the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. It could also mean that Cueto genuinely thinks he is worth more than $20 million per year over six years. Furthermore, both parties could hypothetically still be working on something, though the chances of that after this story leaks would be slim. It's worth noting though, that negotiations do continue beyond a 'here's an offer, take it or leave it' ultimatum.
Honestly, signing this early in the off-season to a deal that fair wouldn't really make sense for Cueto. According to FanGraphs, his past two seasons were worth nearly $70 million. While Cueto won't be getting an offer worth an average annual value of $35 million, settling for $20 million per year doesn't make sense either. By waiting, Cueto can likely get a better dollar figure or a longer-term from a team that is more likely to contend.