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Royals' trade for Johnny Cueto could significantly impact Tigers playoff chances

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Two of Cueto's first three starts with the Royals could come against Detroit, and he could face the Tigers four times down the stretch this season.

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros may have fired the opening salvo of the 2015 MLB trade deadline, but the Kansas City Royals just hooked the biggest fish in the pond. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported that the Royals have closed a deal with the Cincinnati Reds for starter Johnny Cueto, one of the most sought after players on the trade market this July. The deal comes less than 24 hours after the Royals and Reds had a trade fall through, with Cueto pitching eight shutout innings against the Colorado Rockies in the meantime.

We don't know what players the Reds received for Cueto yet, and it's possible that a prosperous return could persuade the Tigers to trade David Price before Friday's non-waiver trade deadline. However, given the mixed reports we have heard, it's still anyone's guess which path the Tigers take in the next five days. If they sell, we should hope the Tigers receive good players in return for trading their good players.

If the Tigers have their eyes on the playoffs, though, the Cueto trade could have a significant impact on their postseason chances. Cueto's start last night means that his first start in a Kansas City uniform won't come until Thursday at the earliest. The Royals begin a four-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday evening, and odds are Cueto will start on either Thursday or Friday.

After an off day on Monday, August 3, the Royals come to Detroit for a three-game series. Barring a weird set of circumstances, Cueto will likely start against the Tigers on either Tuesday or Wednesday evening. If he starts the Wednesday evening game, Cueto will then be in line to make his first home start as a Royal on Monday, August 10. Their opponent that evening? The Detroit Tigers.

The Royals are currently 10 1/2 games clear of the Tigers in the AL Central, so they probably won't juggle their rotation with Detroit in mind. Kansas City may push to get as many starts out of Cueto as possible down the stretch, but as long as they maintain their robust division lead, they can afford to give him ample rest and keep him fresh for the playoffs. Cueto has had injury concerns in the past, and the last thing the Royals want to do is burn out their new ace in August and September with a six-game division lead.

The Royals and Tigers will face off 12 more times this season, and it's possible that Cueto could start four of those games. The Royals return to Detroit from September 1-3, and the Tigers make their final trip to Kauffman Stadium from September 18-20. Kansas City is a formidable opponent already -- they're currently on a 98-win pace without Cueto -- and facing a pitcher of Cueto's caliber is no picnic. The Tigers already face an uphill battle if they want to make the playoffs, and Dayton Moore's aggressive move just put another obstacle in their path.