Giants’ Johnny Cueto signing leaves Dodgers lagging in NL West arms race

Johnny Cueto celebrates after the end of the eighth inning while pitching for the Royals during the 2015 World Series. Cueto signed with the Giants on Monday.

Johnny Cueto celebrates after the end of the eighth inning while pitching for the Royals during the 2015 World Series. Cueto signed with the Giants on Monday.

(Jamie Squire / Getty Images)

Let’s see, how does this work again?

The Giants have now added ace Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to a rotation of Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy and either Matt Cain or Chris Heston. Verdict: Much improved.

The Diamondbacks have added ace Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller to a rotation of Patrick Corbin, Rubby De La Rosa and either Robbie Ray or Chase Anderson. Verdict: Much improved.

And the Dodgers have subtracted Greinke from and, we think, added Hisashi Iwakuma to a rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson and Alex Wood, with surgery boys Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy and a group of minor leaguers in the wings. Verdict: Very much not improved.


That’s right, kiddies, it may be only Dec. 14 and rosters are far from finalized, but the prime pickings are now off the board. When Cueto agreed to a six-year deal at a reported $130 million with San Francisco on Monday, that left the Diamondbacks and Giants as two of the most improved teams in baseball.

Two teams in the same division as the Dodgers, who for now have only grown weaker.

So active early last off-season, Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi have been improbably quiet this winter. Somebody send out a search party. Thus far, they have officially added no one. They reportedly agreed to sign Iwakuma for three years, but that report came out more than a week ago and they’ve yet to announce it.

They tried to bring back Greinke, but were almost implausibly outbid by the small-market Diamondbacks in both years and money. Greinke, 32, got six years at $206.5 million. Now Cueto, 30 in February, gets six years.

I can’t remember the Dodgers officially saying this fall they would not go six years on a pitcher, but you have to wonder if they drew a line. Their offer to Greinke was for five years.

It’s not like they won’t go there, having signed Kershaw for seven years.

Of course, Kershaw was 25 when he signed his $215-million deal almost two years ago. Maybe the Dodgers think Cueto’s injury history makes him undesirable for a long-term deal. And maybe they figured it just wasn’t wise to go six years on Greinke, who’ll be under contract through age 37.

Or maybe just nothing is going the way they planned it.

It’s been six weeks since the season ended, and the Dodgers have been doing backward ever since. An offense that needed improvement has lost second baseman Howie Kendrick without an addition. The rotation is down an irreplaceable ace. The bullpen was oddly supposed to be joined by closer Aroldis Chapman, even though they already had a proven closer in Kenley Jansen, but the deal (hopefully) fell apart when news broke that Chapman allegedly was involved in a domestic violence incident.


The team with the richest TV contract in baseball ($8.5 billion) has been left an observer. Pretty sure at this point last winter Friedman and Zaidi had already made about 2,311 deals. Thus far, they have officially re-signed infielder Chase Utley, 37, to a one-year deal.

And that’s all, folks.

Even if the Iwakuma announcement is forthcoming, the Dodgers will still need to make an addition to the rotation. With the big boys -- Greinke, Cueto and David Price -- now all locked up, there is a serious drop-off in quality among the remaining free-agent starers.

Which is not to say there still are not good free-agent pitchers -- Doug Fister, Yovani Gallardo, Scott Kazmir, Mike Leake -- available who can help any rotation. But the real difference makers are now locked up elsewhere.

The Dodgers, and all their riches, are reduced to off-season spectators.