Mike Clevinger's deal opens the door for a Johnny Cueto reunion with the Reds

Chicago White Sox pitcher Johnny Cueto
Chicago White Sox pitcher Johnny Cueto / David Berding/GettyImages

The Cincinnati Reds need a veteran starter, and it just so happens that a pretty darn good one is available this winter.

Johnny Cueto, whom the Reds were rumored to be pursuing last spring, is a free agent this offseason. After the Chicago White Sox inked Mike Clevinger to a one-year deal on Sunday, a return to the Windy City for Cueto seems unlikely.

Cueto called Cincinnati home for the first eight years of his career. With such a young group of starting pitchers, adding a veteran presence like Cueto could help anchor the rotation next season as the Reds continue to rebuild.

A Johnny Cueto reunion with the Reds could happen.

There's been a lot of discussion lately about former Reds players returning to the franchise. Tucker Barnhart, Curt Casali, and even Jesse Winker have been mentioned in recent weeks. But adding Cueto might be the most logical addition Cincinnati could make.

Last spring, there were rumors swirling about the Reds interest in a reunion with Cueto. Instead, Cincinnati swung a trade for Mike Minor and Cueto landed a $4.2M contract with the Chicago White Sox.

Cueto posted a win-loss record of 8-10 with a 3.35 ERA in 25 games. Cueto eclipsed 150 innings pitched for the first time since his All-Star campaign in 2016. A free agent once again this offseason, one has to assume that Cueto could command about double what he made in 2022.

But the Cincinnati Reds are not short on cash. Heck, the club paid Minor $10M last season and are on the hook for $18M if they hang on to Mike Moustakas in 2023. Besides Moose, former MVP Joey Votto is the only Reds player under contract for next season.

While the fanbase is excited to see how Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo will perform in their second major league season, there are a lot of question marks in the rotation beyond the two former first-round selections.

Graham Ashcraft looked good early, but his production took a nosedive over the second-half of the season. Connor Overton pitched well early in 2022, but his four starts came against the Pittsburgh Pirates (2), Colorado Rockies, and Cleveland Guardians.

Cincinnati also has a pair of young prospects who'll be in the mix next spring. The Reds recently added Levi Stoudt and Brandon Williamson to the 40-man roster. However, both may begin the 2023 season in the minors.

There's also Justin Dunn. The Cincinnati Reds acquired the right-hander in a deal with the Seattle Mariners last spring, but after an injury-riddled and unproductive 2022 season, it seems foolish to count on the former first-round pick to be part of the starting rotation next season.

There are, of course, other starting pitchers who could be acquired during the offseason. Realistic options for the Reds include Chase Anderson, Michael Wacha, and Ross Stripling; all of whom could serve in a similar capacity to Johnny Cueto.

But in a year in which so much disdain exists for the Cincinnati Reds ownership and front office executives, doesn't make sense to give the fanbase something to cheer for? Bringing back Cueto might put a few extra butts in the seats every fifth day.

Next. Dream starting lineup for the 2023 Cincinnati Reds. dark