Cueto, Reds finalize $27 million, 4-year contract

Posted Jan. 26, 2011, at 6:18 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 26, 2011, at 9:03 p.m.

CINCINNATI — Johnny Cueto plans to bring a lot more of his large, extended family to spring training in Arizona next month.

Cueto flew into town, took a physical and finalized a $27 million, four-year contract on Wednesday that allows the Cincinnati Reds to avoid arbitration with the right-handed starter and locks up another young player. It gives the 24-year-old pitcher a chance to provide more money for his family in the Dominican Republic.

“He’s the only one right now that takes care of his entire extended family, so they’re happy and he’s happy to be able to provide for them,” agent Bryce Dixon said after Cueto signed his deal. “The first thing he’ll do is take more of them to America with him, to Cincinnati and to Goodyear, Ariz.”

Cueto gets $3.4 million this year, $5.4 million in 2012, $7.4 million in 2013 and $10 million in 2014. Cincinnati has a $10 million option for 2015 with an $800,000 buyout.

Right-handed starter Edinson Volquez is the only Reds player still in arbitration. Volquez asked for $2 million and the Reds offered $1.3 million. General manager Walt Jocketty said the club has offered Volquez both a one-year deal and a multiyear contract.

Cueto’s deal is the latest in an offseason spending spree by the defending NL Central champions. They’ve committed more than $150 million to four players: Cueto, right-hander Bronson Arroyo, outfielder Jay Bruce and first baseman Joey Votto, the NL’s Most Valuable Player.

“This is a big day for us, and we’ve had a number of big days this offseason,” Jocketty said. “We felt it was important to continue our efforts to try to sign the young nucleus of our club to long-term deals for number of reasons.

“For the ballclub, it gives us some financial certainty for our payroll going forward. It’s important we have some of these key guys. We’ve locked up a few position players. This is the first of our young pitchers we’ve signed to a long-term deal.”

Cueto went 12-7 last season, establishing career highs in wins and innings. He led the staff with 138 strikeouts and made 18 quality starts. The bullpen blew six save chances behind him, the second-highest total for any pitcher in the majors. Cincinnati was shut out in three of his seven losses.

Cueto was especially good late in the season, when the Reds were closing in on their first playoff appearance in 15 years. He made quality starts in six of his last seven appearances. He started the third and final game of the Reds’ playoff series against Philadelphia, losing 2-0.

The Reds have kept most of their roster intact to try to make another playoff run.

First, they exercised an $11.5 million option on Arroyo, who is their most accomplished starter, and added two years for $23.5 million. Bruce got a six-year, $51 million deal. Votto avoided arbitration with a three-year deal for $38 million.

The signings give the Reds a foundation for the next few years, when they think they’ll be able to stay competitive in the NL Central and rebuild a fan base that dwindled during a nine-year losing streak. The Reds’ payroll was $82.5 million at the end of last season, which ranked 19th in the majors and fifth in their division behind the Cubs, the Cardinals, the Brewers and the Astros.

“We’ve got a lot of quality young players,” Jocketty said. “At some point when Johnny gets beyond this contract and Votto and some of the other guys, we’re not sure if we’re going to be in a position (financially) to sign these guys again. So we have to have players that will be able to step in and take over. Hopefully, we can do that.

“It just depends on our revenues we’re able to generate in coming years. If we continue to win, I think we will. I think our attendance will improve and our revenues will improve and we’ll be in great shape to try to re-sign these guys.”

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AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.

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