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Johnny Cueto is going to opt out, and the Giants ‘aren’t inclined’ to give him an extension

The opt-out was expected. The Giants being disinclined to offer an extension wasn’t.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Atlanta Braves Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Johnny Cueto is not having an All-Star season. He’s still planning to opt out of his Giants contract. You should not be surprised by this. Jon Heyman is reporting that Cueto will opt out of the remaining four years, $84 million on his contract, which makes sense because he’ll likely get more money than that, even if his ERA remains in the 4.00 range.

What you might be surprised about, though, is this part:

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Johnny Cueto is planning to opt out of his contract at the end of the year, but he would listen to any extension offer.

The Giants don’t seem inclined to do that.

It has been clearly obvious, even through the struggles, that Cueto was planning to opt out. He needs to look absolutely lost not to beat four years, $84 million. He needs to be in the middle of a Matt Moore-type season and feeling a soreness he’s not used to. There’s just too much money out there for his final big payday. That’s before you get to the part where he’s hinting that he wants to go back to the American League, or where he’s disappointed that the Giants’ clubhouse isn’t diverse enough.

But I figured the Giants would chase him anyway.

This latest report seems to suggest that the Giants are fine with Cueto walking and not being responsible for the backend of his contract. While that makes a lot of fiscal sense, it would leave the Giants without a complement to Madison Bumgarner at the top of the rotation. The 1-2 punch was the biggest reason the Giants made the postseason last year, even though they were secretly awful and plotting to steal our hopes and dreams as we napped.

One reason the Giants might be okay with Cueto leaving:

Giants committed payroll, by year
2018: $149.9 million
2019: $118.4 million
2020: $114.7 million
2021: $75.6 million

That’s an awful lot of committed payroll, among the tops in baseball. Those numbers are with Cueto, though, which means they would improve slightly if he were to leave.

Cueto leaving (as well as the payroll situation) is going to put a ton of pressure on the farm system. But it’s possible that the Giants don’t see any way around that. It’s also possible that the abacus twiddlers in the front office are figuring that it shouldn’t be too hard or expensive to find a pitcher who will pitch as well as a 34-year-old Cueto.

At the same time, man, do I enjoy watching Cueto pitch. This year has been rough for the Giants — on at least two or three levels, really — and Cueto has been a part of that, but he’s still someone who makes baseball better. I would miss that. Tremendously.

I’m not surprised at the intimation that Cueto will opt out. I’m not stunned at the concept of him playing for another team next year. But I’m a little surprised that the Giants might let it happen so easily. There might be logic behind it, but it’s still unexpected.

As long as Andrew Suarez turns into a perennial Cy Young candidate, I’m sure we won’t even notice.