Washington Nationals Rumors: If Nats Hire Dusty Baker, Would Johnny Cueto Come To DC?
With Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister expected to leave the Washington Nationals via free agency this winter, the Nationals rotation appears to be set when you have Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Joe Ross, and Tanner Roark. Nevertheless, the team could use some veteran starting pitching to replace Zimmermann at the top of the rotation.
In yesterday’s Inside Baseball column by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and MLB Network, there is a possibility that if the Nats hire Dusty Baker to be their next manager, he did work well with one of the top pitching free agents this winter. Here is what Heyman had to say:
“Something to keep in mind if Dusty Baker gets the managing job: Johnny Cueto pitched best for him and Baker is a fan of his. Baker, here to broadcast for TBS, hasn’t heard from the Nats since his initial interview.” (h/t Heyman, CBS Sports).
Currently, Cueto is still in the postseason as the Kansas City Royals will play the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 6 of the ALCS on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium. He is 1-1 in three postseason starts with a 7.88 ERA.
Baker was Cueto’s manager in Cincinnati from 2008-2013. In 2012, Cueto went 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA in 33 starts, but was hurt in Game 1 of the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants. While Cueto did have some good years with the Reds, his 20-9 season last year was with Bryan Price as manager, not Baker.
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Of course, while the 29-year-old right-hander was still with the Reds this season, the Nats saw how dominant he can be first hand. Back on July 7 at Nats Park, Cueto threw a complete game two-hit shutout and struck out a season high 11 batters in a 5-0 win.
Baker interviewed for the Nats manager position on October 14 and worked for TBS this postseason during their pre and postgame shows. Obviously, the Nats shouldn’t pick Baker to be their manager just because of a possibility of signing Cueto. Plus, would the Lerners give another pitcher a big contract after signing Max Scherzer to a $210 million contract last offseason.
The question for the Nationals is going to be whether they trust their young pitching going forward with Strasburg and possibly Gio Gonzalez on the final year of their contracts. If they don’t think they can reach extensions with those players, then they will go after the likes of Cueto or another big name pitcher regardless of who the manager ends up being. Yes, Baker hasn’t received a call, but if the interview went well, you would think he would get a second interview because of his experience, something Mike Rizzo has prioritized throughout this managerial search process.
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