Cubs and White Sox Pull off Jose Quintana Blockbuster

It’s pretty rare these days when MLB teams get to announce a big transaction on their own, as most things leak out ahead of time, and we get a few days of speculation before a deal is finally complete. But this morning, the White Sox just threw out a shocker.

We were pretty sure the White Sox were going to trade Quintana, and it seemed pretty clear the Cubs needed another starting pitcher, but the presumption was that the Chicago teams wouldn’t strike a deal, given their history of not really making trades together. They hadn’t completed a trade between teams since 2006, when Neal Cotts was traded for David Aardsma, and before that, it was 1998’s Matt Karchner for Jon Garland deal.

But this time, apparently, the fit was too perfect to pass up just because they share a city. The White Sox wanted to continue to load up on future upside, and there are few prospects in the game with more long-term value than Jimenez, who Baseball America just ranked #5 overall in their midseason update. Eric Longenhagen put a 60 FV on him before the season began, and he’s gone on to hit .271/.351/.490 as a 20-year-old in high-A ball. He’s still several years from the big leagues, but he’s got some of the biggest power upside in the minors, and the White Sox have time to be patient.

Cease is a pretty nifty second piece himself, as a 21-year-old who can get his fastball into the high-90s and was destroying the Midwest League this year. Like Jimenez, he’s got a ways to go before he’s a big leaguer, but there’s plenty of potential here.

Rose and Flete are your typical add-ons in trades like this. Neither one even made the honorable mentions section of Eric’s Cubs list this spring, and it would take some unexpected development for either to become a contributor in the big leagues. This deal is about Jimenez and Cease.

As expected, Quintana didn’t bring back quite the return that Chris Sale did, but this looks like a very nice return for the White Sox. They continue to pick upside and long-term value over proximity to the Majors, and when you collect prospects like this, your success rate will naturally be lower. But if they hit on a few of the guys they’ve acquired over the last year, they’re going to find a franchise player or two to build around. With Moncada, Jimenez, Kopech, Cease, Giolito, and Lopez, the White Sox have six pretty interesting upside plays to hope on now.

Jeff will be around in a bit with a longer write-up on this deal, and will focus more on how this helps the Cubs. But they needed another good pitcher, and now they have one they can keep around for a few more years. The Dodgers and Nationals shouldn’t forget about the Cubs just yet.





Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

102 Comments
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tornadothor
4 years ago

Cubs get 3.5 years of a great pitcher for possibly 2 good to great prospects now.

jaykaydeemember
4 years ago
Reply to  tornadothor

I like this trade for the Cubs (and Sox) but let’s not oversell Quintana: he’s a good-to-very good pitcher on a great deal. He’s a fantastic value, absolutely an upgrade for the Cubs both in-season and someone who’ll start NLDS games if they get there, and his salary means they can pursue an ace in free agency more easily, but he’s very good, not great.

Rational Fan
4 years ago
Reply to  jaykaydee

Since 2013, he has the SEVENTH best WAR in baseball for SP’s. If that’s not great, I don’t know what is.

Alice Cooper
4 years ago
Reply to  Rational Fan

See, to me, this is an unfair portrayal of something that is factually correct. I want to preface this by saying Jose Quintana is a perfectly cromulent pitcher. This is not an attack on his skill set. Moving on, what Quintana did in 2013 has little bearing on his performance from July 2017 and beyond. Anibal Sanchez had 6 WAR in 2013. Second, how many young pitchers get eliminated from the leaderboard because they made their debut in the interim and haven’t racked up enough accumulation time? Take a look at the names who closely follow Quintana on the list. In a vacuum, would you take him over… Strasburg? Bumgarner? Greinke? Archer? Keuchel? DeGrom? Cole? Syndergaard? Carlos Martinez? See where I’m going with this? WAR, in your context, is a counting stat. Quintana benefits from many above-average inning pitched. That’s what he is. Above average. Not great. Of the top 30 WAR earners in your time frame, Quintana has the 9th worst ERA.

Quintana is a fine player. He is NOT the 7th best pitcher in baseball.

Rational Fan
4 years ago
Reply to  Alice Cooper

Ok, since 2014 he’s 8th. Since 2015 he’s 8th. I didn’t pick some arbitrary start point to prove my point. No matter how you splice it, he’s in the top 10 over a long sample.

So I’m not quite sure what point you are trying to make. Longevity, and durability are valuable assets – especially for a guy who is still only 28 years old. You act as if I picked some year in particular to skew my point. Since 2014 and 2015 he’s 8th best.

Would I take him ahead of a bunch of guys who have not shown an ability to stay healthy or remain consistent? Absolutely. It’s great that Thor is unbelievable when he pitches, but he does no good pitching from the DL.

The most underrated asset of pitching – which is really bizarre imo – is durability. Being really good and always out there is more valuable than being “great” and frequently injured.

asreitzmember
4 years ago
Reply to  Rational Fan

Two ways of looking at this…watch Quintana injury luck run out in a month.

Twitchy
4 years ago
Reply to  Alice Cooper

Quintana’s WAR ranks the past few years:

2016 – 10
2015 – 15
2014 – 10

So year to year, not 7th best overall. However, let’s look at how he did over that 3 year stretch:

2014-2016 – 8th

Rational Fan’s point is still valid, that Quintana is a great pitcher, and shouldn’t merely be considered good. He’s a legitimate front of the rotation starter, and on most teams he should be considered a #1.

And while you’re discounting his talent because he pitchers more innings, that’s still an important function of a SP. Going deep into games and preventing runs are the two most important things you can do as a SP. So that’s not a negative.

It’s not crazy to say over the last few years Quintana has been a top 10 SP.

35Shields
4 years ago
Reply to  Alice Cooper

ZiPS projects him to be the 9th best pitcher and Steamer projects him to be the 11th best.

The Sox didn’t think he was just “above average”. The Cubs didn’t thing he was just “above average”. His past stats don’t think he’s just “above average”. Projection systems don’t think he’s just “above average”.

The only people who think he’s just “above average” are people who think pitchers can only be good if they throw 95+ mph.

asreitzmember
4 years ago
Reply to  Alice Cooper

Thank you…this guy gets it. The Cubs overpaid, just like they did to get Chapman in giving up Gleyber Torres. Cleveland’s butt checks tightened and they choked that WS. The Cubs are fortunate it worked out. Eloy has been compared to guys like Miggy Cabrera. Eloy and Gleyber are future All Stars. They’re better spec’s than every guy on that Cubs roster not named Kris Bryant.

Uwashington
4 years ago
Reply to  Alice Cooper

Great post. I agree in spirit that the usage of stats can create a deceptive appearance. However, in this specific topic, I believe you are mistaken- Quintana IS a great pitcher, and better than most of the players you named.
By war per 100 IP, 2014-2017
Quintana: 2.32
Strasburg: 2.44
Cole: 1.96
Bumgarner: 2.18
Greinke: 2.20
Syndergaard: 3.05
Archer: 2.01
Keuchel: 2.09
Degrom: 2.34
Martinez: 1.74

Quintana ranks fourth, basically tied with Degrom. The two pitchers clearly ahead of him both have massive injury concerns.

Travis Lmember
4 years ago
Reply to  Alice Cooper

What Quintana has done in a SSS this season has little bearing on what he’ll do moving forward, unless you see a predictive indicator like velo drop, injury, or another indicator of a change in his skillset.

His 2017 results (citing ERA) are not all that predictive, and outside of a change to the fundamentals, something that the Cubs likely paid little attention to. The days of evaluating a pitcher by his ERA in 100 IP are behind us.

rustydudemember
4 years ago
Reply to  Alice Cooper

You sort of refuted your point by pointing out the 6.0 WAR of Sanchez in 2013. Anyone watching him pitch that year knew he was pitching as well as anyone. Pinpoint command and 4 pitches that were usually garnering k’s or ground balls.

Doorknob11
4 years ago
Reply to  Rational Fan

Yeah, when people judge him for some reason they never quite get how great he is. You can throw all the numbers at them and they’ll still say he’s very good but not great. I truly think it’s because people think in order to be a great pitcher you have to strikeout a ton of people. They tend to forget guys like Maddux and Glavine.

sadtrombonemember
4 years ago
Reply to  Doorknob11

Three reasons:
1) He wasn’t hyped coming up.
2) He has never had a jaw-dropping season. He’s consistently excellent but never has a truly spectacular year.
3) Some people have high standards who for what counts as an “ace”. To me, an ace is the guy who can give reliably give you over 5 WAR most years and is dominant enough that he’s a shoo-in for a wild-card start. The Scherzer, Sale, Syndergaard, Bumgarner types (obviously Kershaw too). Quintana has been a clear #2 for a while…a guy you can expect to put up 4-5 WAR.

35Shields
4 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Quintana would be a clear #2 if there were only like 9 teams in baseball

Thrasiusmember
4 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

He was a clear #2 to you because Sale was ahead of him. That’s not fair. Quintana has been a top 10 starter. How is he not a #1?

sadtrombonemember
4 years ago
Reply to  Thrasius

Because there are only about 5-7 #1 starters at any given time? It’s a subjective descriptor.

asreitzmember
4 years ago
Reply to  Thrasius

I can name 20 SP’s most org’s would rather have…Make no mistake, his contract and durability is why Quintana has value. He is not an elite SP and not a #1. You can’t just ignore his terrible 1st half either.

Rational Fan
4 years ago
Reply to  asreitz

How many times are you going to post this nonsensical drivel? You can name 20 pitchers you have convinced yourself are better; not 20 pitchers who are actually better and don’t kid yourself, you don’t have a clue what MLB front offices would prefer.

During his “horrible” first half, he has the 18th best WAR in baseball.

Let’s not let facts get in the way of your bizarre, eye-test, narrative though.

Jon
4 years ago
Reply to  Rational Fan

I don’t really want to join the “great vs. very good” argument, but I do want to point out that since you’re using WAR (a counting stat) to make your case, you should include non-qualified starters as well. This pushes Quintana down to 22nd this year.

Jon
4 years ago
Reply to  Jon

Downvote? Why? Are you saying that a 4.0 WAR in 200 IP is worth more than a 4.0 WAR in 100 IP?

Sinnycal
4 years ago
Reply to  Jon

I’d note that if you’re getting 4 WAR in 100 innings from a pitcher, that’s phenomenal per-inning value, but someone still has to pitch those other 100 innings. In your hypothetical, that probably ends up being a net positive unless your sixth starter provides negative value, but your hypothetical also probably isn’t quite illustrative of this conundrum since an 8 WAR pitcher is a pretty extreme example and probably any team would be happy to cross their fingers and hope such a stud remains healthy. More likely, you’re looking at, say, a guy you project for 4 WAR versus a bigger injury risk who you could see putting up 5-6 WAR in a full season. If the latter ends up giving you 2.5-3 WAR in 100 innings, then you’re likely left needing to depend on a AAAA type to make up the difference in his 100 innings, which he very easily could fail to do.

Sinnycal
4 years ago
Reply to  Rational Fan

For me, the whole question of whether you’d take a handful of those other pitchers over Quintana comes down to what you’re taking them for. If I need to win one game, there are several of those guys I would absolutely choose over Quintana. They’re more purely dominant pitchers. But does that make them “greater” as assets anchoring a rotation? That’s debatable.

redsoxu571
4 years ago
Reply to  Rational Fan

Given what has become of health with SPs, you can achieve that standing by being very good and VERY healthy, rather than being great. With apologies, your counter does not entirely disprove the prior claim (though perhaps you could make it in a different way; not saying you can’t).

asreitzmember
4 years ago
Reply to  Rational Fan

Congrats, he’s been healthy. He’s not a Top 20 SP, I don’t care what WAR says.

frangipard
4 years ago
Reply to  Rational Fan

I think step #1 is coming to a universal and empirical definition of “great.”

sadtrombonemember
4 years ago
Reply to  jaykaydee

I am also not that crazy about this deal for the Cubs. On the upside for them, they have a core in place for the next few years and they want to contend, and he fits nicely in the playoff rotation along with Lester during that time frame. Not sure he’s any better than Lester if you want a guy to start a wild card play-in game though. There aren’t that many of those available, but if you want one, you probably need Jimenez to get one. I guess it depends on whether you think it’s important enough to wait to get an upgrade for a play-in game, or whether you get the bird-in-hand for a guy who will pitch in a best-of-seven series.

Rational Fan
4 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Lester is 33 years old, Jose Quintana is 28.

sadtrombonemember
4 years ago
Reply to  Rational Fan

While technically true, I’d also rather have Lester for the next year or two. Also for someone whose handle is “Rational Fan” you sure seem attached to the White Sox (me, I’m a debbie downer, so my name is totally appropriate).

Rational Fan
4 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

How am I attached to the White Sox by defending Quintana and what the Cubs got? Quintana had a higher WAR last year and has had a higher one this year despite the slow start. No clue why you’d rather have Lester the next year or two when he’s clearly regressing with age.

jdbolick
4 years ago
Reply to  Rational Fan

To be fair, Rational Fan has stated in the past that he is a White Sox fan.

Ottermember
4 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

I’m a little confused, the Cubs will most likely play the Nats in the NLDS if they make the playoffs.