Cincinnati Reds: Revisiting the Johnny Cueto trade five years later

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 07: Johnny Cueto #47 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches during a baseball game. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 07: Johnny Cueto #47 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches during a baseball game. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

It’s been five years since the Reds traded Johnny Cueto to the Royals.

On July 26th, 2015 the Cincinnati Reds traded Johnny Cueto to the Kansas City Royals. The deal netted the Reds a nice haul in the former of three left-handed pitchers; Cody Reed, Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb. Earlier this week, Reed was designated for assignment, meaning none of those players are on the Reds 40-man roster. Let’s take a look back at the trade.

In 2013, Cueto was derailed by injuries and only made 11 starts. While he was the Reds best pitcher, Homer Bailey was coming off of two no-hitters and he was the one who got the big contract in February of 2014. Cueto was the better pitcher, but signing a massive contract after just 11 starts the previous season, wasn’t going to happen.

Cueto, who was the the team’s ace, was arguably Cincinnati’s best pitcher since Jose Rijo. Cueto started 30 or more games five times during his Reds career. During his time in the Queen City, Cueto went to the All-Star Game in 2014 and finished in the Top 5 for NL Cy Young twice.

Johnny Cueto’s 2014 season was as unpredictable as it was amazing. Cueto earned the first of his two All-Star appearances and led the league in starts (34), innings pitched (243.2), strikeouts (242) and H/9 (6.2).

If it wasn’t for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw having one of the most spectacular seasons in professional sports history during the 2014 season, Cueto’s 20-9 record with a 2.25 ERA would have given him the National League Cy Young Award. The following season, Cincinnati was looking for a trade partner.

Brandon Finnegan is the lone remaining player on the Reds roster following Reed’s dismissal this past week. Finnegan came over from Kansas City with 14 appearances in 2015 and a 3-0 record out of the pen with a sub-3.00 ERA.

Finnegan had the highest ceiling and was the piece that had to be sent to Cincinnati in order for thee Royals to land Cueto.  The 17th overall pick from the 2011 MLB Draft had real upside and even made an appearance in the World Series in 2014, but in Cincinnati, something just never clicked.

Finnegan was designated for assignment back in 2019 and cleared waivers. The left-hadner would carry a 6.60 ERA through Double-A last year in 13 appearances. Finnegan has not seen been called up since 2018.

While Brandon Finnegan is part of the Reds 60-man player pool, the likelihood of him getting the call this year is slim to none. There’s no guarantee, but more probable than not, Finnegan has put on a Reds uniform for the last time.

John Lamb was fifth-round pick by the Royals in 2008, Lamb would not make his debut until August 2015. I’m just going to keep this short; Lamb went 2-12 in 24 starts with the Reds in 2015 and 2016. His ERA is not even worth mentioning. Lamb has not pitched in the majors since June 2018 with the Angels. Was that short enough? Not as short as Lamb’s big league career.

Every time Cody Reed took the hill, it always seemed like he was just off by a smidge. I don’t know if I just wanted to believe in him more than I should, but I always thought he was close. In 51 games since 2016, Reed was finally DFA’d earlier this week with a 5.79 ERA over 9.1 innings this year.

Personally, I think the best thing for Reed would be to get a fresh start with a new team. Reed may just need a change of scenery, and if he could just stay healthy I think he could be an average reliever in the bigs. In today’s baseball, average relievers are valued.

Finnegan is still employed by the Reds and Reed could clear waivers, but I think it’s time to finally admit that the deal was a bust, even though that could’ve been said a couple years ago. It’s likely we have seen the last of anyone from the Johnny Cueto trade on the Reds roster.

5 bold predictions for the 2nd half of the season. Next

With every player acquired from that trade no longer on the active roster, it’s time to stop looking back and start looking forward. This was me officially letting go of what happened five years ago, and if you haven’t yet, I would suggest you do the same.