OAKLAND - The Giants were able to scoop Johnny Cueto up two years ago in part because other teams had concerns about his pitching elbow. Another round of minor discomfort might keep Cueto in San Francisco long term.
The Giants got good news Tuesday, when a round of tests showed that Cueto has only a minor flexor strain. There is no damage to the ligament, so the Giants have dodged baseball's most brutal bullet.
There was no immediate timetable for Cueto's return, and the Giants figure to give Cueto, who missed a start with the same issue in 2015, plenty of time off. He felt the discomfort Monday night while rehabbing from blisters on three fingers. Combine the two issues and the Giants' record and there's no reason to rush. It's possible Cueto has thrown his last pitch of the season.
The bigger question is what this means for Cueto's future. He can opt out of a six-year, $130 million deal after the World Series, but that now seems extremely unlikely. There won't be a robust market for a pitcher who will be 32 next February, has a 4.59 ERA, and is coming off a season with two ailments in his throwing arm.
The Giants had hoped to shop Cueto before the deadline but the blisters wrecked that plan. In recent weeks, before the flexor strain, team officials had become more confident that Cueto would not opt out of his deal. This latest round of developments pushes it further in that direction, and the Giants are fine with that. They intend to contend in 2018, and a healthy and effective Cueto is one of the few ways to drastically improve the roster.