The Chicago Cubs have decided to be buyers at the trade deadline, sending a package including Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease to the White Sox for Jose Quintana.
With the season at its thereabout midway point, Cubs President Theo Epstein has made a definitive step in a direction on which he remained aloof throughout the week: The Cubs are now talent buyers, and look to contend for another World Series in 2017.
With the White Sox twitter account making the trade’s announcement official, both respective fan bases in Chicago can begin dreaming anout their squad’s newly-acquired talent.
For the Cubs, Quintana bolsters a starting rotation that presently ranks eighth in the NL in ERA at 4.66, eighth in FIP at 4.50 and ninth in total WAR from starting pitchers. Quintana adds ace-like potential to a mix of starters who have come to rest on the seasoned shoulders of veteran Jon Lester, himself having a rough year, posting his highest FIP figure (3.97) since 2012.
Interestingly, Quintana’s production is near top-of-the-rotation despite a season many would consider fumbling: Quintana has given up five or more earned runs four times in 2017, which is paired with a BB/9 a whole point above his average over the last three seasons. Of late, though, Quintana has returned to form, posting a 2.86 ERA and 3.49 FIP in six starts since June 11.
Heading to the White Sox…
The production and salary control of Quintana—who is controlled through 2020 with a salary never rising above $11 million—didn’t come cheap, though. In return for the left-hander, the Cubs will be sending over top organizational prospect Eloy Jimenez, along with pitcher Dylan Cease and infielders Matt Rose and Bryant Flete.
Jimenez was ranked as the Cubs organization’s unequivocal #1 prospect before the season, earning scouting grades above even Ian Happ and Albert Almora from FanGraphs, grades which are topped by a 70/80 power tool mark. Despite a league-average BABIP in high-A ball this year, Jimenez has doubled his walk rate from his breakout 2016 campaign, allowing him to still be productive despite a slide in batting average and power output.
Cease adds another power arm to the White Sox’ burgeoning crop of young fireballers, and though he isn’t as renowned for throwing gas as say, Michael Kopech, Cease adds a true 70/70 fastball grade from FanGraphs, which has helped earn the young hurler a 2.74 FIP across 51 innings in A-ball.
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At the major league level, the White Sox lose the very foundation of their starting rotation, and even in the absence of other trades—Melky Cabrera, Jose Abreu, David Robertson, Todd Frazier, and the like—the team projects to be at least a handful of games worse than they already were (HINT: They’ve been truly awful).
Sporting the league’s fourth-worst winning percentage at .437, the team was already nipping at the heels of the San Diego Padres for the third-worst percentage before the All-Star break, this move now virtually assuring the White Sox will be one of the three worst teams in baseball. If more moves are on the horizon, as they very well should for a team so blatantly attempting a rebuild, it is conceivable that the White Sox could be picking second overall or better come the 2018 draft.
Any top-flight player selected at such a draft position would be added to what is already assuredly the most coveted corps of prospects in baseball: Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, Carson Fulmer, Zack Burdi and Zack Collins. The future is unsure, but it could be very bright for the White Sox.
Despite all the talent flying around the country and switching jerseys, it is still much too early to grade the return for either team. What can be graded, however, is the decision by both front offices in Chicago to commit to their respective courses.
For the Cubs, it means selling the young, would-be, might-be, could-be talent for proven veteran dominance on the mound in an effort to bring another World Series to town. As for the White Sox, it means surrendering contributing talent now in the hopes of returning to competitiveness in 2018 and beyond.