The Cincinnati Reds, you may have noticed, have quite the crop of young pitchers. Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Graham Ashcraft figure to make a pretty good 3/5 of a rotation. But 3/5 is not enough and the team is not otherwise replete with options. Yes, they have various players who could waffle between adequate and disastrous, but disastrous needs to be avoided as much as possible. Why? Because you don’t want to be faced with pressure to leave your fancy new aces in a little too long because your bullpen is an absolute shambles because the 4 and 5 guys in the rotation just collectively pitched five innings and gave up eleventy twelve runs.

Enter Johnny Cueto.

Johnny Cueto was good last year. He’s been good his whole career. He’s also old and has some pretty serious injury history. But he was healthy all year last year and figures to not be a disaster no matter what. So take a risk. Contenders aren’t gonna want to rely on him, which maybe pushes him down to the Reds level. Grab him and let him eat innings. It’ll help the kids.

Speaking of helping the kids: I know the Reds have the pitchingest coach in the land, but you know who has been better than his peripherals for literally his entire career? Johnny Cueto. You know who very, very, very clearly understands the art of pitching? Johnny Cueto. You know who having a guy like that on staff could really benefit? Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Graham Ashcraft.

Enter Johnny Cueto.

One last thing we haven’t talked about. Last year sucked. It was terrible. Certainly the least entertaining baseball season I have ever followed. This year’s team is unlikely to be quite as bad, but it will not be good. You know what we all deserve? A little fan service. Bring the old favorite home. This wouldn’t be an Arroyo-style return because all indications are that Cueto can still pitch, but it would be fun. I’d like to watch him every fifth day. Heck, that  would give the team 4/5 of a rotation That could convince me to watch the first 5-6 innings more often than not.

Baseball, we forget, is supposed to be fun. The easiest way to be fun is to be good. But when you can’t be good, you can still be a little fun if you’re interesting. The Reds have a chance to make themselves a little more interesting. And they should take it.

Enter Johnny Cueto.

69 Responses

  1. LDS

    Baseball fun in Cincinnati? Usually only when one is a fan of the visiting team. Cueto is a step up from Minor. But as it stands right now, 2023 isn’t going to be any better than 2022.

  2. Doc

    Bring Cueto back on one condition: if he fails, negative comments about management having brought back Cueto in another bad decision are banned from this site. Comments about Cueto’s performance are allowed, but not about it being a bad management decision or blaming management in any way.

    • Harry Stoner

      That’s a fair propostion, and one I’d ascribe to.

      At the same time management (in any field) has the obligation to communicate its intentions if it wants to help avoid criticism or blame throwing with decisions it makes.

      Eg. “We’re bringing back Johnny Cueto for these reasons…..we know it’s a risk but it’s one we feel like taking and we hope we all enjoy having Jonny Beisbol back in a Reds’s uniform.”

      Comp that with the inexplicable decision to pay $10M for a washed up Mike Minor with little rationale beyond the tired shibboleth of munching on innings.

      “Reds’ fans…We know we’re paying way too much, but this was a panic move on our part to get some kind of pitching back after offloading Miley and trading away (uh, fan favorite) Sonny Gray….(and knowing that we’ll also be unloading the rest of our rotation later this summer) so please bear with us while he predictably implodes game after game….”

      Unimaginable that the Reds’ front office would come out with either bit of communication.

      But it would help cut down on the griping.

      • TR

        Loved your column Jason, and couldn’t agree more. Come on Bob, open your pocketbook and bring Johnny back on a good two year contract. It’ll help to revive the fanbase.

      • Earmbrister

        The FO seemed to feel that Minor was a flip candidate at the deadline. They were wrong about that, but weren’t wrong about Tommy Pham or Brandon Drury. It’s an art not a science.

        As for Miley and Gray, would you have heralded the genius of the FO if they had paid say $10MM for 37 innings of Miley? Or kept Gray instead of flipping him for top prospects so that our 100 loss team could get a whopping 119 IP from him?

        I don’t think leading with Miley and Gray is your best argument …

    • 2020ball

      Any plea for less negative comments around here is about as good as a fart in the wind. People seem almost happy to be negative, maybe even happier the more negative they are.

      • Michael E

        Phil, is that you? It’s easy to be negative when there is little hope. Anyone smiling from ear-to-ear about being a Reds fan may need mental health check and committed.

        That said, yes, being negative becomes a habit over time if your team is chronically under-funded and seemingly making the wrong moves in the wrong year (not rebuilding when the should, not improving when they’ve got a shot at contending, etc).

      • 2020ball

        Even when the Reds have a good team and are competing all I see is whining about the manager, how Vottos contract is killing the team, how Farmer is getting all the starts even though he’s earned it, etc. etc. I’m critical of the FO just as much as you are, believe me, but it doesnt stop me from wanting them to win all the same. I think there are plenty of people here that activvely root for them to lose just so the manager might get fired, and then they’ll just bring in another guy you dont like and the process will begin anew.

    • Challenger

      Thank you, Doc!!!!
      I’m so tired of those comments, too!
      Could they and should they spend more $ in strategic FA acquisitions and trades in support of the “rebuild “? YES! Would bringing in Johnny Cueto or another similar pitcher to mentor the young arms? YES!
      But let’s not pretend that rebuilding this team was not a sound move. The 2021 Reds, as constructed were never going to win a World Series. If done right, this team could do so in another 2 years, or so!
      Thank you, Reds FO for making the hard decisions you’ve made. Your results depend on what you do going forward. Remember, “there’s no crying in baseball!” Reds fans.

  3. Mark Moore

    On a relatively cheap contract with some nice incentives? I’d buy that. We all know he’s just be a placeholder. But I’d say if management got this done, it would be a bit of a bright spot.

    • MK

      In’22 he threw 150+ innings with a 3.35 ERA. He isn’t going to get a mega contract, but he isn’t going to be cheap either. I’d start negotiations with ’22 Minor money and add incentives for innings pitched. He would be great to have around Greene, Ashcraft, Lodolo and Dunn.

      He is great with young Latin guys. When he did a rehab in Dayton, he bought food for the after game like most big leaguers do. But what he also did was come back the next night and took all the Latin players out for dinner after the game. We had several Latin players living with us at the time and he made a point of thanking me for taking care of “his boys.” (contrary to popular belief he speaks passable English)


      • Dan

        Wow, that’s really interesting background, MK! Thanks for sharing!

        Also, I guess I didn’t realize that minor leaguers sometimes live w/ a “host family,” like college players do in summer leagues.

        Anyway… appreciate you giving “Cueto’s boys” some of your Dayton hospitality! For real – that’s great, just on a human level. I really cannot imagine being 19 or 20 years old and having to live in a random (not very big) town in a country where I don’t speak the language… I can only imagine that having nice people to live with there would be a HUGE positive for those kids.

        Would be curious if you have any fun/interesting stories about the players who lived w/ you… although I don’t know if that might be a violation of the “host family code.” 😉

      • MK

        A lot of stories. Through the year we had 4 young men from Venezuela and one Dominican. Only one made it to Reds, Alejandro Chacin. We are still in contact with all of them and feel like we have a Dominican granddaughter, 2 Venezuelan granddaughters and 2 grandsons. They still address me as Papa. Alejandro is still pitching in winter ball and summer US Independent Leagues. Last season he was in Lexington. One is a youth sports coach and butcher, one a construction worker married to a doctor, Alejandro owns a shoe and sportswear store, while another is a business interior decorator in Miami. The final is a personal trainer in the Dominican Republic. Generally a great group of kids. Prior to CoVid all the Dayton players lived with host families, many still do but It is encouraged as much since pandemic.

    • Votto4life

      Why must it be on a cheap contract? The Reds have slashed their payroll by 1/3 in the past year. I swear, some of you guys worry more about Bob’s money than he does Lol

      • Mark Moore

        I don’t really care one way or another. The only reason I mentioned it was because aging, middle-of-the-road pitchers don’t usually rebound to Cy Young status. The $10M for Minor was about 2x too much in terms of the value he provided.

        Given the stats MK mentioned, I’ll agree that cheap won’t cut it, even loaded with incentives. We’re not going anywhere in 2023. So spending just to spend doesn’t make sense to me. And I have no idea if the concept of “mentoring the younger pitchers” actually holds water or now. I suspect it’s often over blown.

        As for the player host family thing, I’ve got some good friends who do that in the Midwest League (Grand Rapids, same league as Dayton). They do have some stories to tell. But those kids playing are trying to move upward, so they are mostly business.

      • Mark Moore


        Got you, V4L. It’s all good.

  4. redsfan4040

    I am all for bring Cueto back. Fan favorite for sure. Brings some fun to the mound, mentor to the youngins, as you said.
    If he’s pitching well and the Reds stink, you can try and flip him to a contender to get him another ring. If he’s pitching well and the Reds found a way to be good, wonderful!
    Him eating innings will allow Williamson and Stoudt to stay at AAA longer. I don’t think either should make the OD roster. Cessa looked fine as a starter toward the end of the season, but can we count on that for 32 games?

    Being able to watch Cueto pitch for the Reds on a nice summer Saturday afternoon would certainly be enough to convince me to make the 2 1/2 hour drive to GABP, even if I am watching Kevin Newman play SS for my favorite team.

  5. SultanofSwaff

    I said this last year! He was an excellent buy low candidate and went out and had a great season. He likely will get a lot more money this offseason, but I’d still kick the tires on a reunion. There’s a lot the younger guys could learn by watching him work, but most importantly he could be part of that bridge to the next wave of young pitchers (Abbott, Williamson, etc.) so they’re not rushed.

  6. SellTheTeamBob

    Johnny might get a 2yr/20 mil contract. Reds will offer 1 yr/3mil with a happy meal incentive.

    • Optimist

      Small consolation, but they’ve shown they can offer a 1/10m contract. They haven’t shown much sense in arranging for injuries/innings volume, certainly not in the pen, let alone in the 5th/6th/7th/8th starters.

  7. Jim Walker

    I am on board with bringing back Cueto. If he can teach Greene (and others) to throw a circle change and effectively pitch to contact, he will be worth every cent they pay him regardless of what he does from the mound himself.

    • JB WV

      Great point Jim and I agree with everything in your piece, Jason. I’ve been thinking about Cueto coming back for a while and what a treat it would be to see him throw some magic out there. One of my all-time favorite Reds. Bring back Barnhart too, if possible. Some really likeable vets join the young guys for a fun year!

    • CI3J

      I remember there was an article about Johnny when he was here that talked about how he had an “epiphany” while watching Bronson Arroyo pitch and realized that he didn’t need to try to throw the ball through a brick wall every time he threw it, he just needed to locate it well and fool the batter. After that was when the Johnny Cueto we all knew and loved emerged, where previously he had struggled to get through 5 innings on a low pitch count.

      If Cueto can teach that same lesson to the young’uns, I would consider bringing him back well worth it.

  8. Ken

    Sounds like a great idea bringing in Cueto. I remember fuming when it was obvious they weren’t going to retain him when he departed. The Reds’ response to my comment is they didn’t appreciate threats about my shedding my Reds roots, which took hold in 1960, pre
    Pete Rose. Bring back Cueto! Give the fans SOMETHING to cheer about! Like you, I’ve endured the worst season ever in 2022. I’ve lost interest, but for the true Reds fans hanging on, give ‘em. Christmas present.

  9. David

    Rumors on the Internet indicate that “The Cubs are Targeting Cueto!”.

    So, he could appear in GABP, one way or the other.

    Johnny will be 37 next season. Why not?

  10. Tar Heel Red

    Cueto would be a great mentor for the young guys in the rotation and provide an innings eater to boot. Make it so!

  11. AC

    He’s worth it for the Instagram content alone. Obviously they won’t get it done, but we can dream, can’t we?

  12. MBS

    The Reds should do a lot of things. Now that they filled the back up catching role, a Starter moves from 5th to 4th on my list.

    1) Closer
    2) Outfielder
    3) Setup Men
    4) Starter

    To do it right it would cost around 50M – 60M, but even I no longer holds out hope for that kind of spending. The last projected payroll I saw has the team around 71M, so clearly they could spend. The can but they won’t seems to be the only issue.

    • Votto4life

      Exactly MBS. I also agree spending money doesn’t equal success. Cleveland and Tampa can compete with a $71 million payroll. So it is possible. But a lot of things have to go right.

      I gave Bob Castellini the benefit of the doubt for 15 years, but that ended with this last year down. The 2020-21 team wasn’t perfect, but it could have been competitive had the Reds invested a little more money. Instead of building upon what they had, the Castellinis tore it all down.

      That is why it’s hard for me to get behind the idea that ownership will invest millions of dollars in this team when (and if) the young players develop. I just don’t buy it. But, I have been a Reds fan my entire life and as a wise man once said Where are you going to go?

      • JayTheRed

        Where are you going to go? I have to say I still keep an eye on the Reds, hence why I am still posting to this site, but I started paying way more attention to the 2nd Favorite Team the Blue Jays this past year and what a fun season it was for them. Yes, there was a little disappointment over how the Blue Jay’s season ended but honestly it was a fun watching the team play.

        This is the focus the Reds media needs to focus on. Make a few moves that give reasons to come to the ballpark and maybe even have a tiny bit of hope. In the past some writers on this site have said “Hope isn’t a strategy”. It can be to get fans to come to your games though.

        Here is hoping for a few strategic moves that could help the younger players learn from a savvy vet or two.

      • Votto4life

        Yeah ,I tried following another team, it just doesn’t do it for me, But, I am glad you are enjoying the Blue Jays.

      • 2020ball

        I’m lucky enough to have two favorite teams as well, it helps a lot when you see awful comments like that from the ownership. Real easy for me to just attend my other teams games instead.

    • Tar Heel Red

      Number 1 is not gonna happen (Diaz, ready or not, will open as the closer). Number 3 will most likely not happen (no doubt they will continue to bring in guys on minor league deals). I’m hoping number 2 will be upgrades as the OF is a mess. We have three starters right now, so we are gonna have to find at least three others somewhere. Abbott and/or Stoudt will probably be ready at some point this coming season but others, including Williamson are not ready yet.

    • MBS

      @Tar, none of it’s going to happen I fear. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t.

      My guess on pitchers we see starting for the Reds in 23:

      Greene, Lodolo, Ashcraft, Cessa, Dunn, Overton, Livley, 2 FA’s on a minor league contract, Williamson, and Stoudt

  13. TJ

    I just checked the Red’s pitcher’s innings pitched. Hunter Greene led the team with 125 innings pitched. Lodolo and Ashcraft had just over 100 innings a piece. Where are all those innings going to come from? Has anyone heard any talk of a 6 man rotation? I’ve heard the talk that for pitchers to avoid injuries, they shouldn’t pitch more than 20% more innings than the did the year before.

    • Optimist

      A while ago I commented that these 3 should be good for 450 ip this season, barring lengthy injury time. There are about 1,450 ip total, so where do they get the remaining 1,000 ip? Splitting that among starters and relievers, they still need 4 or 5 other starters, and, of course, 8-10 relievers passing thru the 40-man and 26-man rosters.

      Ugly comparisons when you look at their team pitching stats and one of the playoff teams.

    • Oldtimer

      Many of the Reds best teams had 6 regular starting pitchers.

    • Oldtimer

      Three examples are 1975, 1976, and 1990 Reds. The 76 team had six pitchers with 20 or more starts.

      • Michael

        @old timer

        Toss in 95 with 6 starters making 11-29 starts.

        99 was also another one with 6 between 19-33.

  14. Bill J

    See Jesse Winker back in the central with the Brewcrew.

    • LDS

      Contingent on medical. Big fall from an all star to 2 new teams in less than a year.

      • Harry Stoner

        Not so unordinary….trade with Seattle didn’t work out for various reasons: both health and personality related.

        But his injuries sound real and debilitating. This coming from a guy with a chronic neck disk problem of his own.

        If Winker’s health returns so will his bat and likely his attitude.

      • LDS

        Yeah, he didn’t handle being traded emotionally Sadly, rebuilding his career at Milwaukee is kind of a downer Reds fans as well

    • earmbrister

      Bill J, he’s only certain to be with the Brewer’s for the final year of a two year deal. I wish him well (against the Whiny Birds).

  15. Eddiek957

    Cueto is a no brainer. The difference between the reds and Tampa and Cleveland is the latter two been winning this way for awhile. Reds need to play to win all through the organization Ownership the last eight years has had either no plan or a really poor plan. From this point forward a plan to produce winning baseball must be put in place

    • David

      I think I vote for “no plan”. They talk about “a plan”, but this is never discussed in any detail, or even in very general brush strokes. Draft good players, develop them, rely on home grown talent.
      Well…..duh. That’s about what 3/4ths of the league does (unless you are the Yankeees).

      So, there is just more pseudo-front -office babble about “a plan”. Because there isn’t one.

  16. Kevin H

    Saw Winker was traded to Brewers. Good for him to come back to NL and hopefully he hits well against Reds.

    Reds organization is a sad joke.

    • JB

      Everybody thought Krall got hosed on that deal. I thought at the time he did well. Now it really looks good. Another player that was overhyped by Reds fans. Slow, terrible on the base paths, weak arm, bad defensively and couldn’t hit lefties. Reds were wise to get rid of him.

      • 2020ball

        Not sure about really good, Williamson turning into even a bullpen arm would help it a lot for sure. Books still out on that given his performance last year.

      • 2020ball

        I thought at the time the trade was risky but had the chance to look very shrewd in the future.

  17. JayTheRed

    I have been banging on the drum to bring Cueto back from day one of free agency.

    The move seems perfect to me. do a 1- or 2-year deal, or perhaps a one year with a player option that kicks in after 150 or so innings. Maybe 8 to 10 million plus incentives on ERA Strikeouts and Innings. Someone above mentioned using the Minor Money

    I like the deal get it done at the Meetings this week coming up. Johnny Cueto has always been one of my top 5 favorite reds Pitchers.

  18. Votto4life

    Johnny Cueto, despite his age, had a decent season last year. I expect the Reds will have some competition for his services.

    I don’t see the Reds outbidding anyone for his services. Plus, Cueto gets a say where he signs, not sure why he would be interested in coming back to this mess. The Reds might be able to sign him in his 39th year, but I doubt they will sign him this time around.

    • LDS

      Yeah, the great thing about the Reds this offseason is that all of the news is about former Reds players signing elsewhere. Though with an occasional mediocre acquisition such as Newman.

  19. Melvin

    Would I like to see Cueto back?…YES

    Do I have confidence that Big Bob & Son will give Krall the resources to do it?…Nope

    • William

      Bring Cueto back. Last year ranks as the worst team I have ever followed in any sport. I am confident that the Reds will be more interesting from 2024 – 2027. I like Cueto, and he would make the Reds 2023 season better. It would be a good move for the Reds to bring him back.

  20. Erik the Red

    Does Cueto want to come back to the Reds? If yes it could not be worse than Mike Minor. We need 5 to 6 starters that can eat up 150 innings per starter in order to save the bullpen.

    • Optimist

      Cueto won’t be worse than Minor when pitching. The issue is can he get beyond 75 ip? I expect the only chance the Reds have of signing him is with big incentives at 75, 100, 125, 150 ip. and a buyout or player option for a second year. They’ll get outbid on straight terms and duration.

      • Harry Stoner

        Didn’t the Reds sign Minor w an option?

        If so, that would mean they were willing to commit similar $$ for 2023.

        So the money must be around to sign Jonny Beisbol.

        But likely we’ll see another Chase Anderson losing lottery ticket or two.

        I don’t think Krall has the cojones or the license to go after JC.

        i’m sure he knows the Minor acquisition was a really really bad idea.

        Casting some serious shade on all his deals for ‘prospects’.

      • Optimist

        The Minor option was with the team, a 1m buyout, which they exercised, added to the 10m contract for 2022 – I’m thinking they need to give Cueto a player option for 2024 – along the lines of 5-8m for 2023, 2-3m in incentives for 2023, and a player option of 5m for 2024. That’s up to 15m for Cueto. If someone offers Cueto 2/20m they lose, if all the offers are at 1/10, they may get him.

      • Jim Walker

        It is too late (early actually) and I am too tired to run down the details (BBRef only says Minor “and cash” to the Reds for Garrett); but, I believe the Royals sent all or at least some significant portion of the Minor buyout to the Reds in the deal.

  21. west larry

    M K: you and your wife are incredible. Your family showed a great deal of hospitality and kindness. I will read your comments above all others. You do us reds fans proud.

    • west larry

      Meant to be under M K’s comments.

  22. 2020ball

    One of my absolute favorite players ever, he still fun to watch pitch even at his older age because of the deception he deploys with his motion. Would absolutely love to see him retire a Red.

  23. Redsvol

    I think Krall has 10-12$M available to spend before opening day ( no way payroll exceeds 85$M).s He needs 1 experienced tier 2 outfielder, 1 5th starter type, and 1-2 bullpen pieces. Based on signings thus far, tier 3 starters are getting 10-11$ million per year. If that stays true for Cueto, Krall will have spent his off-season budget on 1 player.

    I wish for Cueto but I just don’t see it happening unless he takes a steep discount ($6M?). And why would he take that levell of discount to play for a team that obviously won’t make the playoffs. Maybe he would next year. I don’t see his luck (158 innings, 102 K’s) holding out this year so his price tag will likely be much lower next year. I think Krall will value 3 mediocre veterans over 1 very good one.

  24. William

    Let us assume 10-12 million is all the GM has left to spend. The Reds are not going to be competitive in 2023. However, they do need to try to win. GM will have much more to spend in 2024. I would spend almost all of the 10-12 million on pitching, and Cueto would be back in a Reds uniform. I would get two relievers on team friendly deals. GM will not have much left to spend on an outfielder. He will need to pull a rabbit out of his hat on the outfielder. Hey, it is why he makes the big bucks.

  25. Dem

    Castelinni: Can we get Cueto at a discount?
    Crail: I dont know Mr. Castilinni…
    Castilinni: Moving along then…might be too much of my lettuece

  26. CMac

    I was saying the exact same thing last year. Would be a total fan signing! He should be a Red until he retires. Just to sell some tickets and Cheese Coneys. Haven’t had a good JTM commercial in a while.