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Should I Stay or Should I Go: Johnny Cueto

So much for that bargain

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Minnesota Twins Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

fWAR: 2.4
bWAR: 3.5
WARP: 0.2

He should stay A consummate professional, former World Series champion, and all-around nice guy, Cueto was a pleasant surprise in a season full of expected unpleasantness. Despite a late start to the season, Cueto was third on the team in innings pitched, and nearly equaled Lucas Giolito’s innings total despite six fewer starts. He’s a crafty pitcher who continues to generate outs by keeping hitters off-balance with a funky array of windups and pitches. Also: impressive horse riding skills.

He should go Entering his age-37 season, the end could be coming for Cueto at any time, and unlike 2022, he’s not going to be cheap when it comes. He will continue to be at significant risk of age-related decline while likely commanding an eight-figure annual salary, something the White Sox don’t have much room for these days. Cueto barely strikes anybody out any longer, and despite a bottomless bag of tricks he walks a fine line between being good and being washed up.

The verdict Watching Cueto in 2022 was a joy in a season otherwise largely bereft of any happiness. He was one of the first members of the team willing to call out the lack of urgency on the team, and had the on-field performance to back up his words (unlike, say, Dallas Keuchel). Sadly, the only reason Cueto was here was because he was cheap — and on a minor-league deal. With those conditions assuredly off the table now, Cueto has probably priced himself out of White Sox range. If he’s going to cost $10 million or more (and he almost certainly will), one has to wonder if perhaps there is a slightly better play for the White Sox in that price bracket. That said, if he’s brought back, nobody should complain.