In an out-of-nowhere move first announced by the clubs themselves, the White Sox and Cubs made the biggest trade of the season thus far. The Cubs acquired top White Sox starter Jose Quintana for their top two prospects, outfielder Eloy Jimenez and starting pitcher Dylan Cease, along with two prospects currently in Hi-A, infielders Matt Rose and Bryant Flete.
The 2017 season has actually been something of a struggle for Quintana, with a 4.49 ERA and 40 walks, already only ten walks off his final total from last season. However, Quintana’s K/9 is a career-high 9.4, and a 4.01 FIP suggests that his struggles can partly be attributed to bad luck. Playing in a more pitcher-friendly park (when the wind blows in, at least) and having the superior Cubs defense behind him will presumably help Quintana shave some points off of that earned run average, bringing him closer to the 3.29 ERA he posted from 2014-2016.
The 28 year-old lefty is under control through 2020, due roughly $13.2M for the next season-and-a-half, followed by two club options ($10.5M, then $11.5M), that will almost assuredly be exercised by the Cubs.
Quintana has been available on the trade market since last December, with the Astros, Red Sox, Yankees and Pirates among the clubs who were linked at various points. The Cubs, despite the need for starting pitching help, were seen as an unlikely destination due to the stigma on intra-city deals.
As for the White Sox, the deal of Quintana is just the beginning of what will now surely be a complete sell-off for the club, with other trade options including (but not limited to) reliever triumvirate David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Anthony Swarzak, third baseman Todd Frazier, outfielder Melky Cabrera, and perhaps even first baseman Jose Abreu. Chicago, of course, began replenishing its farm system by trading Chris Sale and Adam Eaton at the winter meetings.
The White Sox will look to continue to boost their elite farm system that now has an astonishing nine top-100 MLB.com prospects: Pitchers Cease, Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer; catcher Zack Collins; infielder Yoan Moncada; and outfielders Jimenez and Luis Robert.
Jimenez, 20, was recently ranked by Baseball America as the no. 5 prospect in all of baseball after starting his season with a .271/.351/.490 line and eight homers in 42 games at Hi-A Myrtle Beach. Cease, ranked 83rd by BA, was a 6th-round pick in 2014 and has posted a stellar 2.79 ERA in 13 starts for Single-A South Bend this year.
Without a doubt, this is an absolutely astonishing trade, especially considering the fact that it’s so often reported that the two teams won’t do business with each other on account of being crosstown rivals. Beyond the scope of these two teams, however, it opens the door for the rest of the trade market, especially that for starting pitchers. We at MLBDD are going to be keeping a close eye on Sonny Gray, Chris Archer, and all of the other cost-and-time-controlled starters on the market. This could be the first of many shoes to drop.