Cueto brings flair to Marlins introduction

Veteran righty proudly wears Dominican Republic flag

January 19th, 2023

MIAMI -- Veteran right-hander is known for his kooky delivery and infectious personality.

Cueto lived up to his reputation and more during Thursday's introductory press conference at loanDepot park. He appeared from behind a vehicle blasting "Corazón Culpable" by Antony Santos and waving a Dominican Republic flag. As Cueto made the walk from the center-field gate to the mound, he hammed it up by showing off his dance moves.

"To me, it's an honor just the way that the organization welcomed me here in the city," Cueto said via interpreter Luis Dorante Jr. "It was great. It was a feeling that I was back home in the Dominican Republic."

Added general manager Kim Ng: "That was an awesome entrance, probably one of the best entrances I've seen. I think it gives you a little sense for his personality and his flair. We could use some of that in our clubhouse. So we're excited to have him and add him to the Marlins family."

Cueto, who turns 37 on Feb. 15, agreed to a one-year contract with a club option for 2024. Terms were not announced, but including the buyout, the deal is for $8.5 million guaranteed, according to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. Cueto indicated Marlins pro scout Johnny Almaraz, who originally signed him in 2004, played a role in the union. Cueto will also reunite with former Reds teammate and new Marlins manager Skip Schumaker.

The 15-year veteran and two-time All-Star hadn't pitched more than 147 1/3 innings in a season from 2017-21 due to various injuries that sidelined him, resulting in a 4.38 ERA and just 72 appearances (71 starts). That stretch came after accumulating the second-lowest ERA (2.94) of all pitchers with at least 750 innings pitched (behind Clayton Kershaw) from '11-17.

But Cueto's bounceback season with the White Sox in 2022, in which he posted a 3.35 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP in 25 games (24 starts) over 158 1/3 innings, assuaged any reluctance the Marlins' front office might have had. Cueto did allow 9.2 hits per nine innings and ranked in the lower percentiles for expected batting average (16th), strikeout percentage (eighth), whiff percentage (third) and fastball velocity (11th), per Statcast. He walked just 1.9 batters per nine innings and was in the 74th percentile for chase rate.

"We've been in discussions for quite some time," Ng said. "I think it was dipping our toe in the waters at first, and then substantive conversations for a fairly long period of time. I think on both sides, the interest was always there. I think it was just about trying to get to a place that made sense for both of us.

"He's had a very good career, hit some medical bumps several years ago, but clearly from last year in his performance, has proven himself that he's over that. He's great depth and great competition in our rotation/bullpen, so we're excited to have him."

This could mean a couple of things moving forward for Miami. Cueto can provide insurance and veteran leadership for a young starting staff with an injury history, and as a result, likely innings limits in 2023. The MLB single-season inning career highs for the Marlins' starters are as follows: Sandy Alcantara (228 2/3), Pablo López (180), Jesús Luzardo (100 1/3), Trevor Rogers (133), Edward Cabrera (71 2/3) and Braxton Garrett (88).

"He's definitely a different kind of pitcher than what we currently have," Ng said. "It's a nice mix when you throw him in there, especially between the power arms that we've got. And I think it also shows our young pitchers that you don't always have to overpower, and that with your secondary stuff, and being able to spot that and having command of that, and using your defenders, I think is pretty efficient. That was something that was definitely attractive about him."

The addition of Cueto could also signal the Marlins will trade from their starting pitching "surplus" for offense. Miami would have those seven starters as well as Sixto Sánchez, who hasn't pitched since 2020, on the 40-man roster. Max Meyer is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but prospects Eury Pérez, Jake Eder and Dax Fulton most recently pitched at the Double-A level and continue to progress in their development.

After a relatively quiet offseason that included missing out on various free agent bats, Cueto becomes the second MLB player to join Miami in the past two weeks. Two-time All-Star infielder Jean Segura signed a two-year deal with a club option for 2025, bolstering the lineup and projecting to start at third base.