Less than 48 hours after the 2017 All Star Game ended in Miami, baseball fans have their first blockbuster trade to discuss, dissect, and marvel at. The two Chicago clubs have worked out a deal that would keep Jose Quintana in town, just shipped up to the north side. In return for southpaw, Quintana, the south siders will welcome Cubs top prospect OF Eloy Jimenez to their already stacked farm system. The White Sox will also get RHP Dylan Cease, arguably their top pitching prospect, 1B Matt Rose and INF Bryant Flete.
Jimenez is the centerpiece of this deal, as he was the organization’s top prospect, and according to Baseball America, the number 5 prospect in the sport. Dylan Cease is the other big name here who along with being the Cubs top pitching prospect, also broke onto Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list, coming in at 90. This trade coupled, with Ian Happ’s call-up to the big leagues, leaves the Cubs without their top three preseason prospects.
Some might see the Cubs as overpaying a bit for Quintana, who is in the midst of a bit of a down year. After being an All-Star in 2016, Quintana has responded with a 4-8 record through 18 starts thus far, and has pitched to a pedestrian 4.49 ERA and a 4.01 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). However, Quintana did show signs of a return to form in June, pitching to a 1.78 ERA with 30 strikeouts over 30.1 innings.
The Cubs are hoping that Quintana can help alleviate some of the stress surrounding their once vaunted rotation. The Cubs’ starters were a big reason for their success and subsequent championship run a year ago, but are now mired in mediocrity with a 4.10 team ERA. Moreover, neither ace for the Cubs staff, Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, have been able to find consistency thus far, as they each own a 4.25 ERA, not helped by Lester’s recent 10 run drubbing at the hands of the Pirates. If effective, Quintana could help some of these issues, and if all three regain their form, that gives the Cubs quite the enviable three punch combo atop the rotation.
Not to be overlooked, however, is how White Sox GM Rick Hahn has rebuilt the farm system during the recent down years on the south side, with much of the rebuilding coming since the end of the 2016 season. Hahn spun a trio of trades to restock the farm system, nabbing the game’s top prospect Yoan Moncada from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale deal, three high ceiling pitchers including former first round pick Lucas Giolito from the Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade, and now Jimenez and Cease in the Quintana trade. In just over six months Hahn has taken an underperforming White Sox team, full of high priced veterans and put them through a swift rebuild, and the deals may not end there. There are still several veterans left on the payroll including 3B Todd Fraizer and RP David Robertson who are also expected to be on their way out before the July 31 Trade Deadline.
Quintana had long been a topic of trade rumors, even over the winter when the Houston Astros were reportedly pursuing him. Other teams linked to the White Sox ace were the Yankees and once again the Astros, however, according to Hahn, the Cubs’ was “far and away the best offer.”
The Cubs have been mired around a .500 record so far and are hoping that Quintana can be the spark to the rotation that gets them above the .500 mark, and past the surging Brewers, who lead the Central Division by 5.5 games.