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Reds make four-year deal with Cueto official

Reds make four-year deal with Cueto official

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Reds make four-year deal with Cueto official
CINCINNATI -- The Reds' busy winter continued as they finalized a four-year, $27 million contract to avoid arbitration with starting pitcher Johnny Cueto on Wednesday after the right-hander passed his physical.

The deal, according to The Associated Press, will pay the 24-year-old Cueto $3.4 million in 2011, $5.4 million in 2012, $7.4 million in 2013 and $10 million in 2014. There is a $10 million club option for 2015 that carries an $800,000 buyout.

Cueto, who hails from the Dominican Republic, made $445,000 in 2010 and was already enjoying the benefits of the big salary increase.

"I'm the only one that takes care of my entire extended family, so they're very happy and I'm happy to be able to provide for them," Cueto said through an interpreter during a press conference at Great American Ball Park. "The first thing I will do is take more of them to America with me, to Cincinnati and Goodyear [Ariz.]."

Cueto was to be arbitration-eligible for the first time, which means the contract covers all three of his arbitration years and at least one year of free-agent eligibility.

In arbitration numbers exchanged last week, Cueto was seeking $3.9 million for the 2011 season, while the club countered with a $3 million offer.

"We try to identify the guys we think are, No. 1, deserving of this, but also guys that we think with this reward will continue to work hard and strive to be as good as they can be," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. "We definitely feel that Johnny is that type of player."

Cueto was 12-7 with a 3.64 ERA in 31 starts last season, while he established career bests in wins, ERA, innings pitched (185 2/3) and walks allowed (56). He is 32-32 with a 4.27 ERA in 92 starts over his three big league seasons.

After the pitcher's physical, Jocketty said team medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek told him that Cueto was in the best physical shape he's ever seen him.

"Really looking at his track record over the last three years he's been with us, he continues to get better and better every year. He pitched 185 innings last year, and I know he'll be the type of workhorse that will eventually get into 200 innings for us and a winning pitcher for us for the years to come."

Of the six arbitration-eligible players the Reds had going into winter, only pitcher Edinson Volquez remains unsigned. Jocketty had a phone call with Volquez's agent just before the Cueto press conference.

"We're continuing to negotiate," Jocketty said. "We're talking about a one-year and a multi-year deal. Hopefully we get something resolved soon. I am optimistic we'll get something done with Edinson. Until you get it done, you never know. I'm certain we'll get a one-year done. I'm not certain we'll get a multi-year deal done right now."

With the Cueto signing, the Reds have committed a combined $151 million this winter toward contracts for four key players -- Bronson Arroyo (three years, $35 million), Jay Bruce (six years, $51 million), Joey Votto (three years, $38 million) and Cueto.

Like Cueto, Bruce and Votto could have gone to arbitration for the first time.

"We felt it was important, again, to continue our efforts to sign the young nucleus of our ballclub to long-term deals," Jocketty said.

Coming off of their first National League Central title in 15 years, the Reds realize they have more work to do to keep their window of contending open for as long as possible.

To that end, emphasis will continue to be made on scouting and development, the Draft and international scouting. For a small-market team like Cincinnati, it needs to do anything it can to keep a steady flow of talent coming while keeping payroll in check.

Jocketty admitted that keeping the core players around could become harder to do in the coming years.

"At some point, when Johnny gets beyond this contract and Votto and some of the other guys, we're not sure we'll be in position to sign these guys again," Jocketty said. "It just depends on the revenues we'll be able to generate in the coming years. If we continue to win, I think we will. Our attendance will improve, our revenues will improve and we'll be in great shape to try and re-sign these guys."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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