Johnny Cueto had the opportunity to be the first among the elite group of starting pitchers to sign, when he got a $120 million offer from the Arizona Diamondbacks. But he passed on that, and since then, the game of musical chairs has played out quickly.
Jordan Zimmermann signed a five-year, $110 million deal with Detroit.
David Price got a $217 million deal with the Red Sox.
Zack Greinke agreed to a six-year contract with the Diamondbacks, taking some of the Arizona payroll space that would've gone to Cueto (and more).
Cueto is still unsigned, with his future landing spot less murky than a week ago. He's not going to the Red Sox, for sure. He isn't signing with the Diamondbacks or the Tigers. The Giants are pursuing another free-agent starter, but for now, they aren't interested in doling out another huge contract. The Dodgers might have been a theoretical match for Cueto, but giving him anything close to $120 million would present a political problem for the team, following Greinke's departure, and the Dodgers are closing in on a deal for Hisashi Iwakuma.
The Royals would like to sign another starter, but more along the lines of a three-year deal (with Scott Kazmir, perhaps). The Padres don't seem to be in the market for a starter. The Braves, Phillies, Brewers and Reds are rebuilding. The Pirates probably won't dole out $100 million to anyone anytime soon. The Angels' focus is on position players. The Yankees aren't targeting free agents. The Mets don't need starting pitching.
The one major contender with money to spend and a rotation spot to fill is the St. Louis Cardinals, but as Cardinals beat writer Derrick Goold discussed on the podcast last week, the ugly feelings about Cueto in the St. Louis organization linger from the 2012 fight between the Cardinals and Reds.