Relive all of the ups and downs of the 2023 Miami Marlins with our Fish On First Season Review, containing detailed articles about a wide variety of players. The FOF staff analyzes the individual impact that each of them had and what it means for their future with the organization.
This installment focuses on right-hander Johnny Cueto.
- January 19—Miami Marlins signed Cueto in free agency
- March 15—pitched for Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic
- April 4—placed on the 15-day injured list (right biceps tightness)
- May 2—sent on a rehab assignment to Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp
- May 6—suffered sprained ankle during rehab start
- May 23—transferred to the 60-day injured list
- June 11—sent on a rehab assignment to Pensacola Blue Wahoos
- June 22—rehab assignment transferred to Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp
- July 10—activated from the 60-day injured list
- August 21—placed on the 15-day injured list retroactive to August 18 (viral infection)
- September 2—activated from the 15-day injured list
- October 3—left off of NL Wild Card Series roster
Season stats: 52.1 IP, 6.02 ERA, 7.02 FIP, 6.71 K/9, 2.58 BB/9 (age-37 season)
When the Miami Marlins signed Johnny Cueto to a one-year deal worth $8.5M, they were hoping for him to replicate his 2022 success with the Chicago White Sox. He had been an efficient innings-eater who was pitching to soft contact early in the count to overcome diminished strikeout numbers.
Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the case with Miami. As early as his first spring training game, the warning signs were there. Cueto did not appear to be in good shape, and he struggled during both the Grapefruit League and World Baseball Classic. Even though those games “didn’t count,” he was allowing way too much hard contact. It turned out that Cueto was pitching through an injury without telling the Marlins. He had to leave his 2023 regular season debut during the second inning and wouldn’t return to the majors until after the All-Star break.
Cueto pitched horribly during his minor league rehab assignment. The Marlins used the maximum 30-day window to try to get him back on track. Activating him during the All-Star break was done out of necessity given the club’s concerns about young starters being able to hold up while dealing with career-high workloads.
Initially upon returning, Cueto’s fastball had more velocity and life than he had shown during rehab. That was fully on display against the Colorado Rockies on July 22. In his best outing as a Marlin, Cueto went six innings, struck out eight, walked one and gave up one run on two hits.
Towards the end of the season, Marlins manager Skip Schumaker lost trust in Cueto. Aside from that Rockies game, he allowed home runs in every start (usually multiple homers) and posted the worst FIP in the National League among pitchers to throw at least 50 innings. Schumaker had to continue using Cueto after Sandy Alcantara and Eury Pérez suffered injuries, but he was on a short leash.
Cueto didn’t make it onto the NL Wild Card Series roster. The Marlins gave his spot to Ryan Weathers instead.
Future with the Marlins
Johnny Cueto has a 2024 club option for $10.5M that the Marlins need to make a decision on after the World Series. Everything points towards that option being declined, making him a free agent.
If Cueto wants to continue his MLB career at age 38, it’ll have to be through a minor league deal. In case this is the end of the road, he’s had a great career, including two All-Star appearances, a World Series title, 36.4 WAR, 3.50 ERA, 2245.0 IP and a 144-111 record.
Photo courtesy of Miami Marlins