The Reds were trying to work out a deal to avoid arbitration with right-hander Johnny Cueto. Turns out, they might have locked him up all the way through his first free-agent year.
Cueto and the Reds have reached agreement on a four-year, $27 million contract extension, according to a report on ESPNDeportes.com on Thursday night. The Reds did not confirm the report, which said the agreement is pending a physical examination, though the club did acknowledge that discussions about a multiyear deal with Cueto have taken place.
If the deal goes through, then Cueto would be the third arbitration-eligible player the Reds have locked in with a multiyear commitment this winter. Outfielder Jay Bruce signed a six-year, $51 million deal last month, and reigning MVP Joey Votto signed a three-year, $38 million contract earlier this week.
Cueto signing would leave right-hander Edinson Volquez as the last remaining arbitration-eligible player on the Reds' roster this winter. Both Cueto and Volquez made $445,000 last season. Arbitration hearings run from Feb. 1-21, but teams can still find middle ground with their eligible players in advance of a hearing.
Earlier this week, when arbitration figures were exchanged, Cueto had asked for $3.9 million for the 2011 season, with the Reds countering with a $3 million offer.
The 24-year-old Cueto, a native of the Dominican, went 12-7 with a 3.64 ERA last season. His wins total, ERA, innings pitched (185 2/3) and walks allowed (56) were all career-bests.
After signing with the Reds as an amateur free agent in 2004, Cueto made his Major League debut in '08. He has compiled a 32-32 record and 4.27 ERA in 92 starts over the last three seasons.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.