How does Lester's deal affect Reds with Cueto?

How does Lester's deal affect Reds with Cueto?

SAN DIEGO -- The Cubs winning the sweepstakes to sign free-agent pitcher Jon Lester late Tuesday night should have a lasting effect on the Reds -- in more ways than one.

Of course, Reds hitters will now have to face Lester five to seven times a season as he becomes the ace of the Chicago rotation. And Lester's reported six-year, $155 million deal also gives the Reds' front office a sense where the market begins for its own ace -- Johnny Cueto -- who can become a free agent after 2015.

And for the teams that pursued Lester and lost -- the Giants and Red Sox -- and the teams that aren't able to sign the other big free-agent pitcher on the market (Max Scherzer), they still will be looking for a top-end starter.

That could make Cueto or the other Reds starters nearing free agency -- Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon -- more enticing in trade talks for teams that need starting pitching. Boston, in particular, has an overload of outfielders (such as Yoenis Cespedes), which is something the Reds need.

Reds have trade chips

FOX Sports reported Tuesday evening that Scherzer and his agent, Scott Boras, are seeking a $200 million contract.

The Reds and Cueto's agent, Bryce Dixon, held preliminary talks about a long-term contract extension. Without a doubt, Dixon will be showing the Reds where Cueto favorably compares directly to pitchers like Lester and Scherzer.

Let's take a look for ourselves.

Cueto
Age: 28
2014 stats: 20-9, 2.25 ERA, 34 starts, 243 2/3 innings, 242 strikeouts, 0.96 WHIP, 161 ERA+
Career: 85-57, 3.27 ERA, 194 starts, 1,208 1/3 innings, 995 strikeouts, 1.19 WHIP, 123 ERA+

Lester
Age: 30
2014 stats: 16-11, 2.46 ERA, 32 starts, 219 2/3 innings, 220 strikeouts, 1.10 WHIP, 155 ERA+
Career: 116-67, 3.58 ERA, 252 starts, 1,596 innings, 1,457 strikeouts, 1.28 WHIP, 121 ERA+

Scherzer
Age: 30
2014 stats: 18-5, 3.15 ERA, 33 starts, 220 1/3 innings, 252 strikeouts, 1.18 WHIP, 127 ERA+
Career: 91-50, 3.58 ERA, 198 starts, 1,239 1/3 innings, 1,321 strikeouts, 1.22 WHIP, 117 ERA+

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.