A New Jose Quintana Idea

We’ve been waiting for Jose Quintana to get traded for a while now. Chris Sale’s move to Boston signaled the start of a fire sale for the White Sox, and Adam Eaton soon followed him out the door. There were many rumors about a possible trade with the Astros, or perhaps a move to the Bronx. Yet Quintana still currently projects to be the man taking the ball on Opening Day for Chicago. There’s still a few weeks left before camp starts up, and it’s even possible he could move during spring training, as unlikely as it is.

At this rate, however, it looks more and more like Quintana will be moving sometime around the trade deadline. He’s going to be one of the best (if not the best) pitchers available, and he most certainly won’t come cheap. He’s been the seventh-best pitcher in baseball since the start of the 2013 season, and the White Sox are hungry for even more young talent. Anybody looking to acquire him, especially with a trade-deadline surcharge, should be prepared to pony up. The Astros certainly fit this description, but so does another team — a team that hasn’t been bandied about as a possible destination, but certainly has the need and means to trade for him. I’m talking about the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals are in great position to make a run this year. While the Cubs likely have the division sewn up, St. Louis subtracted Dexter Fowler from Chicago and added him to their squad. They’ve also added Brett Cecil to beef up their bullpen, and they’ll be rolling out most of that same strong lineup. The one suspect area is their rotation. Adam Wainwright isn’t getting any younger, and Michael Wacha’s streak of bumps and bruises isn’t inspiring. Lance Lynn will be coming back from elbow surgery. They’ve added some depth in John Gant, and still have Luke Weaver waiting in the wings as well, but it’s depth that could be chewed through relatively quickly. The Cards are going to want to do everything they can to secure a Wild Card spot, and beefing up their rotation is one of the best ways to do it. We project them for 84 wins, and a little luck could have them on a better trajectory than that come deadline time.

Sure, there will potentially be other pitching options out there. There’s Jeremy Hellickson in Philadelphia, Sonny Gray in Oakland, Ervin Santana in Minnesota, and any one of the handful of starters in Tampa. But Quintana is the cream of the crop given that he’s cheap and under team control for years to come. His contract runs through the 2018 season, with options for 2019 and 2020. His yearly salary will never exceed $12 million during that time. That right there, in addition to his formidable talent, is why he’s going to cost a king’s ransom. He’d also, interestingly enough, be the only healthy lefty starter on their depth chart, with Tyler Lyons out with knee surgery.

The Cards can afford that. The White Sox have largely targeted pitching in their trades of late. Yes, they got Yoan Moncada and Luis Alexander Basabe from Boston, but they also got Michael Kopech, and all three of the players that came over from Washington (Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning) were pitchers. No, the Cardinals probably aren’t going to move Alex Reyes in a deal for Quintana. I’d wager, however, that Weaver would be involved, as would Dakota Hudson, one of their first-rounders from 2016, or Sandy Alcantara, who’s further away from the big leagues than Hudson but has more shine to him. The Cardinals could also presumably throw in a position player like Delvin Perez or Magneuris Sierra to sweeten the deal.

Sheer volume will probably have to be deployed to get a deal done without including Reyes, but it’s likely achievable. Rick Hahn has aimed high in his negotiations, and rightfully so. The White Sox have been admirably deliberate in their incineration of the big-league roster. This isn’t a Marlins-style everything-must-go-immediately sort of affair. Hahn is waiting for the right package, and then pouncing.

St. Louis will need to back up the truck to get this done. But it’ll be worth it. Their rotation is shaky right now, and will be getting even shakier with time. Even as these pitchers age out, the Cards will be looking to their farm to provide prospects that hit on their projections. There haven’t been many better teams than St. Louis at doing just that. But when you can add Jose Quintana and his amazingly team-friendly contract to your roster, you do it. This is especially the case if he provides the added push to put the Cardinals ahead of the Pirates and others in the Wild Card race. In fact, the Pirates may actually find themselves chasing Quintana, too, given the questionable latter half of their rotation and prospect riches. It would behoove St. Louis to keep him from their division rivals.

It would be shocking if the Cardinal rotation makes it to the end of July unscathed. Pitching injuries happen roughly every three milliseconds, and as I outlined above, the Cards are is going to get hit at some point. Quintana has logged 200 innings for four years in a row now. He fits their team beautifully. If they can get a deal done before Opening Day, they should do it. If they can get a deal done in-season, they should do it.

If you’re a Giants fan, or a Pirates fan, or a Mets fan, or a Rockies fan (or a Cubs fan, for that matter), you don’t want this to happen. If you’re a Cardinals fan, you should be salivating. This trade may very well be possible.





Nick is a columnist at FanGraphs, and has written previously for Baseball Prospectus and Beyond the Box Score. Yes, he hates your favorite team, just like Joe Buck. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets, and can contact him at stellinin1 at gmail.

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Original Greaser Bob
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Original Greaser Bob

I hear what your saying, but literally sell the farm to be a perennial WC contender for at least the next half decade as the Cubs have the division locked?

Big Jgke
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Big Jgke

So the rest of the NL Central should just pack it in for the next half decade?

Pirates Hurdles
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Pirates Hurdles

No, but trading long term value to get to 88 wins is pretty foolish. Might as well stay at 84 and play for WC.

Original Greaser Bob
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Original Greaser Bob

Who said pack it in?
Trading some combination of your number 2, 3, 5, 6 and 9 prospects for a pitcher only to keeps you in the same position you’re already in (WC contender) doesn’t seem to be the best use of resources.

White Jar
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White Jar

I’d like to place a wager that the Cubs do not win their division each of the next five years.

kerplunk905
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kerplunk905

I agree. The Cubs will certainly be strong contenders over the next five years, but to win it all five years is not likely.

Adam S
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Adam S

For sure this is true. Even if you believe the Cubs are 90% to win the division each year (which is crazy especially 4-5 years out), they’re almost 50-50 to not win all 5 years.

That doesn’t mean that any given team (such as the Cardinals) has a good chance to win in any specific year. Put another way, you can pick any NL Central team other than the Cubs and any year 2017-2021, and I’ll let you bet at 4:1 on them winning the division.

carter
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carter

I will take that wager @ +500

tuna411
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tuna411

So, every other team which is in discussions with the white sox for quintana has to give up their #1 but the holy cards do not? Shake your head man…

Vampire Weekend at Bernie's
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The Reds already got you beat there.

Pie
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Pie

I have a hard time believing that the Cubs have the division ‘on lock’ for the next half decade. While they clearly are the most talented team, that does not preclude the Cardinals from contending (or even winning) the NL Central. It was just two years ago that the Nationals were the paper champions of the NL East, but it was the Mets that ended up in the World Series. Windows for contention should be determined by the makeup of a team’s roster, and not who their competition is.

Adam S
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Adam S

Don’t know why people are down voting this unless they’re Cardinals fans or take this 100% literally. We ALL talked in July about the foolishness of making a big move to improve your chances at the wild card play-in.

Obviously the Cubs aren’t even a lock in 2017. But the Cardinals would be making themselves better in the 2017-2019 time frame during which they’re significantly behind the Cubs and weakening themselves for 2020-2022 when the Cubs will have come back to the pack. As I Cubs fan, I’d be happy if they made this trade.

The Cardinals are 10%/40% to win the division/wild card this year (I pulled that out of my *ss) and maybe 18%/40% in 2018. Adding Quintana makes it 12%/65% and 22%/60% — they’re still a long way behind the Cubs but go from average WC contender to best WC contender.

For sure the Cardinals and Pirates (and Giants and Mets) shouldn’t give up, but they should recognize with the current playoff structure and team “talent” levels, adding 3-4 wins barely moves the needle.

numbers
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numbers

if you’re going to make a big move solely to improve WC chances (not that this is necessarily the case), isn’t a Frontline starting pitcher to take that WC start the best addition you can make?

Jetsy Extrano
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Jetsy Extrano

What are the odds you slide into the WC with enough breathing room that you can arrange your rotation that way? Historically not great I think.