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Johnny Cueto open to White Sox reunion in 2023

by Joe Binder

There’s no question about it, Johnny Cueto has been one of the few bright spots for the White Sox in 2022.

Signing with the club to a one-year, $4.2 million minor league deal on April 5, the veteran figured to be a serviceable, back-end option if all went well. After four starts in Triple-A Charlotte, Cueto turned into a best-case scenario and has been locked in the rotation’s five-spot since mid-May.

Across 25 outings (24 starts), Cueto finished the year with a 3.35 ERA (59 ER/158.1 IP), 102 strikeouts, 3.79 FIP, and 1.225 WHIP. Following his Monday night outing vs. the Twins, the veteran recorded his 18th quality start of the season, the most since his 2016 All-Star campaign (22). Even though it occurred after a string of four-straight losses, Cueto gave his team a chance to win most times he took the bump.

In last night’s meeting with the media, Cueto provided his first real glimpse at the future. The soon-to-be free agent said that he would be open to returning to the White Sox as he believes he has two-to-three years left in the tank.

Though we still have an entire offseason ahead where the roster figures to undergo some notable reconstruction, the early 2023 starting rotation appears to look something like the following:

Obviously, there are more questions than answers with this probable starting five. Cease will look to replicate his 2022 season, and figures to be a lock at the top. Below him, both Giolito and Lynn are pretty big question marks as they need to bounce back from forgettable performances. Kopech, who just recently underwent knee surgery, is expected to be healthy by Spring Training, yet still only has limited innings under his belt. Rounding things out, Martin has shown the capability to be a back-end starter but does the club roll him out in a critical contention year with no depth behind him?

This is where an additional starting pitcher would be ideal and someone like Cueto could find himself back on a one-year deal. The aging vet will come with his own set of questions, however, starting with his asking price and his ability to perform at a level similar to his 2022 campaign. The lowest swing-and-miss rate of his career (15.7%) presents cause for concern, though his above-average control, low walk rate, and durability in a year where nearly every player got injured are all positives to consider.

You would have to assume that Cueto’s valuable contributions have earned his agent an open line with the White Sox front office as his free agency unfolds. Of course, this is all speculation, and the upcoming months will offer much-needed clarity on the South Side’s roster situation. We’ll see if Rick Hahn and Co. end up sharing mutual feelings based on their needs and work towards striking a deal.

As further developments occur over the offseason, we will provide updates on social media @SoxOn35th.

Featured Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

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