Johnny Cueto Contract: Latest News and Rumors on Negotiations with Reds

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) throws against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning of a baseball game, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
Al Behrman/Associated Press

Johnny Cueto enters the 2015 season with one year remaining on his five-year, $36.2 million contract. After putting together his best season to date in 2014, the right-hander is expected to land a megadeal either with the Cincinnati Reds or on the free-agent market. Negotiations are ongoing between Cueto and the Reds as spring training approaches. 

Continue for updates.

Reds GM Walt Jocketty Unsure if Reds Can Keep Cueto

Thursday, Feb. 5

MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reported the latest on negotiations between the Reds and their coveted ace:

"With Johnny, we'll never say 'never.' We are going to do everything we can to try and come up with some sort of plan to keep him," Jocketty said on MLB Network's Hot Stove. "I'm not sure we'll be able to, because the numbers are obviously starting to skyrocket and it's very tough in our market to continue to retain guys at a high price like that. We'll continue to work on that and see where it comes out."

No Progress Toward an Extension 

Wednesday, Jan. 7

It's been over three weeks since reports surfaced about a contract extension for Johnny Cueto from the Reds, and nothing has changed, according to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports:

Jon Morosi @jonmorosi

No recent progress on an extension for Johnny Cueto with #Reds, source says.

Cueto's agent, Bryce Dixon, has said he will negotiate with the Reds until Opening Day. The duo are surely paying close attention to the deals some of this year's top free agents are signing. Jon Lester inked a six-year, $155 million deal with the Chicago Cubs, while Max Scherzer and James Shields are still on the market. 

The 28-year-old ranks right up there with all three players and will likely net a deal in the ballpark of Lester's. If it's with the Reds or another team remains to be seen.

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Reds Discuss Extension With Cueto's Agent

Monday, Dec. 22

Johnny Cueto has reportedly provided a deadline for the Cincinnati Reds to discuss a contract extension.

CBS Sports' Jon Heyman spoke to Cueto's agent, Bryce Dixon, who said that his client won't consider signing a new deal in the middle of the 2015 MLB season.   

"He'll give it until Opening Day," Dixon said of Cueto. "Then he's going to be focused on the season and trying to do what he can for Cincinnati. If something happens, we're probably to keep it to this offseason. We're not going to be looking to do something this summer."

On Dec. 10, Cincinnati.com's C. Trent Rosecrans wrote that both sides are hopeful of getting an extension signed but that it won't come cheaply:

Jocketty said representatives from the team had talks with Cueto's agent, Bryce Dixon, on Tuesday, but he was not involved. That's a sign that any extension talks are in their infancy, at best.

While the Reds are looking to move payroll from this year's team, Jocketty has expressed an interest in extending Cueto. Cueto has also said he'd be open to an extension this offseason and is happy in Cincinnati, but it's unlikely he'd take much of a "hometown discount" — especially since his hometown is in the Dominican Republic.

Back in October, Cincinnati picked up Cueto's option for 2015, meaning he'll get $10 million this year and become a free agent next offseason.

According to Heyman, the 28-year-old will use Jon Lester and Max Scherzer free-agent deals this winter as barometers for his next contract. Lester signed for six years and $155 million with the Chicago Cubs earlier in the month, while Scherzer remains a free agent.

There's no doubt that Cueto has positioned himself to receive a hefty payday, whether it's with the Reds or another team. He's posted a sub-3.00 earned run average in each of the last four seasons (though he only appeared in 11 games in 2013), which is no small feat since he calls Great American Ballpark home.

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 2:  Johnny Cueto #47 of the Cincinnati Reds (L) walks back to the dugout with Brayan Pena #29 at the end of the seventh inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park July 2, 2014 in San Diego, California.  The P
Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Cueto finished second in the NL Cy Young voting this past season after going 20-9 with a 2.25 ERA. He led the NL in strikeouts (242), whiffing 8.9 batters ever nine innings.

The only potential issue for Cincinnati is paying Cueto a large chunk of money when the franchise already has two major investments on the books. Joey Votto still has nine years left on his 10-year, $225 million deal, while Homer Bailey is in the second year of a six-year, $105 million contract, per Spotrac.com.

If the Reds want to extend Cueto, they'll almost certainly have to shed some more payroll.

In the event they fail to sign him before Opening Day, you can bet that Cueto will be a name hotly discussed in potential trades right up until the deadline.

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