When Johnny Cueto signed with the San Francisco Giants in late 2015, it was an interesting arrangement. Six years/$130 million, with a player opt-out after two seasons, and a team option for a seventh year.
Most assumptions at the time were that if Cueto had a strong couple of seasons, he would opt out after this year and explore free agency options once again.
This continued to be the prevailing theory even after the 2016 season, in which Cueto had a strong year and even started the All-Star Game. Cueto was considered a second ace behind Madison Bumgarner and helped the Giants get to the playoffs.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go as well this year, with Cueto missing a fair amount of time due to blisters. In a season already hindered by an off-field injury to Bumgarner, Cueto pitched just 147.1 innings and ended the season with a 4.52 ERA.
So it’s not particularly surprising that he has chosen not to opt-out. As to that team option for a seventh year, well, as Grant put it:
The seventh-year option has almost zero chance of being exercised. If Cueto is still on the Giants in 2021, that will mean he didn't pitch well enough in the first two years of the deal to opt out. So he'll have to pitch poorly at first, then rally and resume being an excellent pitcher in the years after that.
There’s still room to hope for the latter part of that scenario, considering the former ended up being the case. Though it’s unlikely.
This is, however, in some ways a bit of good news for fans, of whom Cueto has become a favorite. If the Giants aren’t going to be good anymore, at least fans still have some reasons to tune in and watch their favorite players.
This move, or lack thereof, appears to lock in the first four spots of the rotation, barring any shake-ups.