No one is mistaking Johnny Cueto for the ace he once was, but for the Texas Rangers, he wouldn’t need to be that guy.
Yes, the Rangers could still use an ace-type (i.e. Clayton Kershaw), but they could use innings eaters just as much. And Johnny Cueto would more than fit the bill as the latter for 2022.
Cueto is coming off a decent 2021 season with the San Francisco Giants, where he pitched to a 4.08 ERA and 4.05 FIP in 114.2 innings and 21 starts. Those figures would’ve been the best on the Texas Rangers in 2021 (min. 20 starts), if you can believe that. The state of this team’s rotation is less than ideal heading into 2022, though the addition of Jon Gray obviously helps.
Johnny Cueto is the type of buy-low, innings-eating starting pitcher the Texas Rangers have targeted in recent years
Texas shouldn’t want to acquire too many top-end starters this season (or next), though, as they have elite prospects like Cole Winn and Jack Leiter on the way from the minor leagues. And the likes of Ricky Vanasco, Owen White and Tekoah Roby will hopefully join them one day in Arlington. But in the interim, the Rangers still need experienced options like Cueto to turn to as inevitable uncertainties will arise during the season.
Injuries have plagued Cueto’s career trajectory the last few seasons, and he’s now 36 years old as he tries to regain the consistent form of his earlier career success. With the Texas Rangers, Cueto would be able to slot in to a near-guaranteed rotation spot as the third or fourth starter behind Jon Gray, Dane Dunning and Taylor Hearn in 2022, which could be very appealing to him.
Additionally, should the Rangers fall out of contention once again by the trade deadline this season, Cueto would be an easy piece to trade off for prospects, like Texas did with Kyle Gibson last summer.
The 36-year-old should only command a one-year deal in the $5-$10 million range for 2022, which should be no issue for a Rangers team that shelled out in excess of $500 million in free agency prior to the lockout. For the potential upside and innings absorption, and not to mention the startling need for rotation upgrades, taking a flyer on Johnny Cueto could be well worth the risk for Texas.