Here's Johnny Cueto in a Giants hat and uniform:
Yes, he was flicking his hair over his shoulder. Yes, that is awesome and we will lovingly embrace this new affectation from a starting pitcher. Unless Jeff Samardzija does it too because, ugh, gross.
There needs to be a reverse Kübler-Ross stages of grief for free agents.
Stage 1: Disbelief about the final years of the contract, when there's no way the player is going to be good.
Stage 2: Anger about the free agents your team missed out on.
Stage 3: Mild acceptance, where you start thinking about the short-term value more than the long-term concerns.
Stage 4: Increased acceptance, where you're more excited about the player on the roster than concerned.
Stage 5: Hell-yeah acceptance, where you're pretty sure that the newly acquired player is going to repeat his best season next year, and how much fun baseball is going to be, and don't you miss baseball?
I'm riding that Stage-5 high, suckers. You know how good Cueto was in 2014? I'm just assuming he'll be that good again. Oh, is that some reason you're handing me? A plate of reason and logic? Well, let me just throw it out the car window and let the people behind me deal with it. And if there are sirens, I'll just drive faster. Stage-5 free agent highs will make you do some things, man.
If you're looking for a little logic, though, we can explore Cueto's 10 most comparable pitchers through age 29, as detailed by Baseball-Reference, and see how well they performed over the next six years. I have no idea how this is going to go, so we'll just find out together.
10. Frank Sullivan
Frank was a quiet man, kept to himself. He was a little bawdy at the holiday party one year, but other than that, he was one of the more reliable folks in accounts receivable. He brought his own lunch a lot.
Wait, no, Frank Sullivan was a two-time All-Star for the Red Sox in the '50s, and he immediately melted down as soon as he turned 30. And we're off to a rollicking start.
9. Bob Welch
So the Dodgers traded Welch in his prime to the A's for Jay Howell and Alfredo Griffin, and they won the World Series that year anyway. Then with the A's, he didn't pitch in the 1989 World Series because of the earthquake, and the A's won the World Series anyway. Feels like this dude was bad luck.
But he aged well. He won the Cy Young (because of 27 wins, mind you) in 1990, and was worth an average of four WAR in his first four seasons after turning 30. I would take that and giggle.
8. Ron Darling
An interesting comp, if only because he wasn't so hot after turning 27. Actually, let me rephrase that, because my mom thought he was hot for years after that, and it scarred me to this day. If Darling were entering free agency today at age 29, he would have signed a one- or two-year deal.
He had a decent season for the A's when he was 31, but that was about it for him after turning 30.
7. Kevin Millwood
After throwing an annoying no-hitter against the Giants in 2003, Millwood led the AL in ERA in 2005. I don't remember that either. He had a second career as an innings-eater, averaging two WAR a year after turning 30. Think Zito, but with higher ups and higher downs.
6. Cole Hamels
He's super, but all things considered, I think I would rather have Cueto than Hamels and an empty farm, even if the Phillies paid his salary down.
We don't know how Hamels will age yet, but I would have been excited to have him on the Giants, so I'm glad he shows up as a comp.
5. Bob Gibson
This would ... turn out well. Gibson had one really outstanding season before turning 30, but was more peak Matt Cain than an inner circle Hall of Famer. Then in the second half of his career, he started dominating. From age 30-35, he was 115-61, with a 2.41 ERA and 146 ERA+. Oh, and he averaged 7.4 WAR in those six seasons.
I could live with that. No pressure, Johnny.
4. Doug Drabek
He was outstanding for so long, with a six-season stretch where he averaged 237 innings with a low ERA. And then he turned 31.
When I was 31, I think I made my first grunt when I bent down to tie my shoes. It scared me. It was the beginning of the end.
Read the Bob Gibson part again.
3. Brandon Webb
READ THE BOB GIBSON PART AGAIN.
Seriously, though, division rivals are the worst, ha ha ha, and it sure is fun to watch them lose, but Webb's departure still bothers me to this day. He was so, so, so awesome and dominant, and everything the Diamondbacks were hoping for in the short and long term had to do with Webb being himself. Then he threw four innings on Opening Day and never came back.
That's a Cy Young, followed by two second-place Cy Young finishes, followed by four innings on Opening Day.
Still bothers me. Not because of anything to do with Cueto, but just because that's not how baseball should work.
2. Jim Bunning
This might be an even better scenario than Gibson, at least in a baseball sense. Bunning was solid in his age-30 season, throwing 258 innings with a 114 ERA+. He slumped in his age-31 season, though, and if he were under the same contract as Cueto, he wouldn't have opted out. Too risky.
Then he had the best four-year stretch of his career. That's exactly how Cueto's contract would work out best for the Giants.
And maybe in his post-baseball life, Senator Cueto could give us moments like this:
"Excuse me, this is a senator-only elevator," Bunning growled repeatedly (before flipping off the reporters who were trying to talk to him).
We can only dream.
1. Jake Peavy
I'll take Cueto being 2014 Jake Peavy, right up to the part where he stumbles in the postseason and it doesn't matter.
♫♪♬Eeeeeven yeaaars/Rings arrive like butterflies♫♪♬
If you're looking at regular-season results, though, Peavy's been better than you might think. He just hasn't stayed healthy enough. Since turning 30, he's thrown an average of 158 innings every year, with a 105 ERA+ and an average WAR of 2.2. Not bad, not bad.
The Giants are looking for more, of course. The odds aren't great that they'll get it from Cueto, but they're not completely implausible, either. We have four burnouts, two acceptable innings-eaters, three success stories, and Cole Hamels, who is still active.
We knew the Giants were flipping a coin with Cueto, but here you can judge for yourself if the risk was worth it. Don't look at me. I'm never coming down on this Stage-5 stuff.