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2023 Marlins Season Preview: Johnny Cueto

How much does the 37-year-old have left in the tank?

2022 Season Recap

Johnny Cueto found himself without a job during Spring Training, ultimately agreeing to a minor league deal with the Chicago White Sox on Opening Day. After making four rehab starts, he joined their major league rotation and proved to be a vital piece of it.

Cueto had a 3.35 ERA and 3.79 FIP in 158 13 innings pitched. He arrived at that success despite a career-low 5.80 K/9. Missing bats wasn’t part of his approach as Cueto ranked in the third percentile among MLB pitchers in whiff rate, according to Baseball Savant.

Cueto has really reinvented himself since his glory days as a Cy Young contender to compensate for a dip in velocity. He made adjustments to his pitch mix in 2022. The year before, his 4-seam fastball was his most-used pitch, followed by his changeup and slider. In 2022, his 4-seam fastball ranked behind his sinker, changeup and cutter in overall usage, yet it remained his most effective pitch in terms of run value (minus-8). This unpredictability caused opponents to chase more pitches outside the strike zone, make weaker contact on average and brought up his groundball rate from 38.1% in 2021 to 42.6% in 2022.

Cueto becomes a Miami Marlin

Throughout the offseason, there was much speculation about the Miami Marlins trading away a starting pitcher to improve their offense. So it was surprising when—before any starting pitcher trade had even been made—a report linked them to Cueto, one of the top options on the free agent market. Teams such as the Padres and the Reds also showed interest in the veteran pitcher.

Fish Stripes original GIF

In the very, very early morning of January 12, Jon Heyman broke the news that the Marlins had signed Johnny Cueto to a one-year deal worth $8.5M. Cueto mentioned in his introductory press conference that being close to his family and being given the most money were key factors in his decision.

Cueto also has a team option for 2024. He can be bought out at season's end for $2.5M.

2023 Season Preview

Johnny Cueto of the Miami Marlins poses for a portrait on January 19, 2023 in Miami, Florida. Photo by Jasen Vinlove/Miami Marlins/Getty Images

The Marlins traded away Pablo López soon after the signing was made official. That leaves Cueto as the likely third starter in their rotation behind Sandy Alcantara and Jesús Luzardo, with the floor being the fourth guy if Edward Cabrera or another gifted young arm leaps ahead of him in Spring Training.

In 21.1 IP (4 GS) at LoanDepot Park, Cueto has a 6.33 ERA. However, his most recent appearance was in 2016, so that history doesn’t mean much moving forward. Before the regular season begins, Cueto will have opportunities to pitch there while representing the Dominican Republic at the World Baseball Classic.

Cueto’s tenure with the Marlins can really go two ways. Either he will get lit up because MLB’s ban of the shift will hurt him and hitters will find patterns in his pitch selection, or he can do more of what we saw in 2022 and remain a valuable innings eater (averaged 6.4 IP/GS for White Sox).

No matter what happens on the days that he pitches, the Marlins like Cueto for his work ethic.

“Johnny likes to work, and he’s serious about his work, and he knows how to work,” pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. told’s Christina De Nicola. “He’s done that in time and learned that. He can offer a lot of great advice to young guys that are still learning some of those things and trying to overcome some things. He’s going to be big for our staff.”


I believe Johnny Cueto will be a good addition to the Marlins staff in 2023. He will finish top three on the team in innings pitched and have an ERA under 4.00.


Over/Under 50% groundball rate for Cueto this season?

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  • 65%
    (19 votes)
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    (10 votes)
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