SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Johnny Cueto’s elbow checked out just fine. The dreadlocks, too.
“We did not MRI his hair,” cracked Giants general manager Bobby Evans.
Bearded reliever Sergio Romo saw Cueto before the festivities at AT&T Park on Thursday and welcomed him with some good-natured advice: Get your smile ready, because with those signature dreads you’re about to be recognized all over the Bay Area.
Cueto (formerly of the Cincinnati Reds and fresh off a World Series-winning stint with the Kansas City Royals) is ready for the attention as the Giants’ new $130 million man, and ready to help San Francisco win another even-year World Series following titles in 2010, ‘12 and ‘14.
“I was calm, I wasn’t nervous, I knew I eventually was going to sign with a team,” Cueto said. “I was at home with the kids, spending time with the family and knowing God will take care of the rest.”
The right-hander was formally introduced in his new No. 47 jersey a day after passing a physical that included an MRI of his pitching elbow.
“He’s a cool cat, he’s going to help us out a lot baseball-wise,” Romo said of Cueto, noting they spoke in Spanish. “I was letting him know, ‘I got my little gimmick with the beard,’ and he’s got the gimmick with the dreads, so I go: ‘Good luck walking around not being recognized. You’re going to walk around and people are going to point at you and be, hey, Johnny, so you’d better get your smile ready.”
Cueto’s six-year deal includes an opt out after two years and $46 million, which would include a $5 million buyout for the 2022 season to be paid out that year. He will earn $15 million next season and $21 million each year from 2017-21. His $5 million signing bonus is spread out in installments of $1 million each Jan. 15 from 2017-21. There is $125 million guaranteed over the first six years and a $22 million club option for 2022 with the $5 million buyout.
While there is not a no-trade provision, Cueto would receive a $500,000 assignment bonus the first time he is dealt and $1 million for each subsequent assignment. He must decide within three days of the end of the 2017 World Series whether to exercise the opt out.
On Cueto’s to-do list is meeting Dominican Republic countryman and Hall of Famer Juan Marichal.
Marichal had the high leg kick, Cueto’s motion is “la mecedora,” the rocking chair.
“We see Johnny really reinforcing our connection to the Dominican,” CEO Larry Baer said. “Johnny’s history being a great Dominican pitcher is very much in line with the Giants history.”
The pitcher received a congratulatory, welcome-to-the-team text message from catcher Buster Posey, and is considering buying a motorized scooter to commute to and from the ballpark with Hunter Pence.
Cueto turned down a $120 million, six-year deal from Arizona late last month, then the Diamondbacks landed Zack Greinke on Dec. 4 for $206.5 million.
“We negotiated quickly and then they gave me an ultimatum, and I was still talking to a bunch of teams at the time, and I just didn’t feel like it was the time to pull the trigger on a deal that early when there was so much interest,” Cueto’s agent, Bryce Dixon, said. “They wanted to know in 48 hours and I told them, ‘No, I’m not going to let you know in 48 hours.’ And then they went in a different direction.”
Romo, in town for a couple of personal events, showed up at the ballpark for a workout when Cueto was in the building.
The 29-year-old Cueto went 11-13 with a 3.44 ERA in 32 starts for Cincinnati and Kansas City, which acquired him in a trade July 26. He was 4-7 for the Royals in the regular season and 2-1 in the postseason, including a two-hitter that gave Kansas City a 2-0 World Series lead over the New York Mets.
While Cueto missed two starts in late May with elbow soreness, it didn’t give the Giants pause. Evans said an injection of contrast dye used in the MRI forced Cueto to miss one of those outings.
Dixon believes some clubs were scared off because of it.
“He can re-establish his actual value, because I thought that getting his start pushed back and having that five-game stretch clearly it was in the back of teams’ minds,” Dixon said. “He’s as good as Price and Greinke and he deserves as much but I feel like teams weren’t willing to go there because of the questions that they had.”
Romo is still coming to terms with the talent in the rotation he will be backing up late in games: 2014 World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner, Cueto, new $90 million pitcher Jeff Samardzija, Matt Cain and Jake Peavy.
“Think about it, it’s trippy,” Romo said. “Wow. Think of the potential of our five.”
Evans said two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum will throw a showcase for major league clubs in January to see how his surgically repaired left hip has recovered.
Cueto plans to fit in with the other star pitchers on the staff.
“It’s already a great rotation, I will just come here to complement the rest of the guys,” he said. “I feel we should all be united and have a great relationship.”