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MLB Rumors: Johnny Cueto Linked to Padres, Marlins in Free Agency

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVDecember 23, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 14: Johnny Cueto #47 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Minnesota Twins in the first inning at Target Field on July 14, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
David Berding/Getty Images

The San Diego Padres are showing interest in veteran starting pitcher Johnny Cueto, according to FanSided's Robert Murray and the New York Post's Jon Heyman.

Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported the Miami Marlins have weighed a move for Cueto as well and posited the 36-year-old could be a replacement for Pablo López if the 26-year-old gets traded.

Cueto posted his highest WAR (2.4) since 2016 last season, per FanGraphs. He went 8-10 with a 3.35 ERA and a 3.79 FIP in 25 appearances. Although his 5.80 strikeouts per nine innings were a career low, he had his second-lowest walk rate (1.88).

The two-time All-Star could be a good stopgap on a playoff contender or perhaps serve as a trade asset to flip ahead of the 2023 deadline.

The Padres fit firmly in the former category after reaching the National League Championship Series in 2022. They fortified their ranks by signing Xander Bogaerts to an 11-year, $280 million contract.

The rotation remains a bit of a question mark, though, considering San Diego is projected to lean on two pitchers, Nick Martinez and the newly signed Seth Lugo, who operated primarily as relievers this past year. Only 38 of Lugo's 275 career appearances have come in a starting capacity.

Whether it's Cueto or another solution, signing a veteran starter makes sense for the Padres.

As Morosi speculated, Miami's interest might hinge on another player going out. The Marlins return their entire starting rotation, a group headlined by National League Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara.

The franchise doesn't have a pressing need for pitching help at the moment, but the situation could change between now and Opening Day.