Giants starter Johnny Cueto has been diagnosed with a right elbow strain and is expected to miss about six weeks, according to Jon Heyman of FRS Baseball. While losing an elite starter for more than a month is never good news for a club, it’s somewhat of a relief for the Giants, who feared that Cueto might have torn his UCL when they placed him on the disabled list last week.
Losing the 32-year-old Cueto, who has posted a 0.84 ERA and 0.69 WHIP over five starts this season, for the rest of the season would have been a massive blow to the Giants. It certainly didn’t look promising when he made a visit to Andrews, as that trip is often the final step before a pitcher decides to undergo Tommy John surgery, but clearly he managed to avoid a worst-case scenario. Interestingly, this marks two successive positive trips to Andrews for the Giants, as closer Mark Melancon visited the infamous surgeon in April and was perscribed a stem-cell injection.
The better-than-expected news about Cueto’s injury is certainly a positive development for the Giants, who now look to have a much more realistic chance to compete for the NL West title — or at least a wild-card spot — than they did going into the 2018 season. With Cueto now expected to return later in the summer, the Giants figure to eventually have one of the best one-two tandems in the majors with Cueto and Madison Bumgarner, who is expected to return from a broken pitching hand in early June.
With unheralded starters Chris Stratton, Ty Blach, and Andrew Suarez pitching well in the absence of Bumgarner and Cueto, this positive news about Cueto’s injury certainly seems to reduce the chances of the Giants acquiring a starting pitcher such as Matt Harvey. Perhaps they’ll search for a more reliable rotation option if they’re looking like a surefire playoff contender at the trade deadline, but for now it seems unlikely that they’ll go over the competitive-balance tax threshold in search of an incremental depth upgrade when their rotation is already performing well and more help is on the horizon.