The Chicago Cubs disappointing first half along with a farm system barren of pitching talent brought about a shocking trade Thursday with the crosstown rival White Sox. for José Quintana is now a Cub. It just took their top two minor league prospects to get the job done. Just a few months ago, both Theo Epstein and Sox GM Rick Hahn laughed at the thought of the teams trading with each other. Even though they seemed a perfect match.
It’s more been the Sox being reluctant trade partners. Why? Because they didn’t want to help the Cubs win or come out on the short end of the deal. The only way the Sox would make this trade was if they thought they were hitting a home run. To quote Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson, “You can put it on the board—yes!”
Listening to Hahn on The Score in Chicago after the trade, he said, “We wouldn’t want to take an inferior baseball deal because we didn’t want to trade with the Cubs. The Cubs clearly had the best offer. It’s like getting Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech (the two key players the Sox got from Boston for Chris Sale) a year earlier with this trade.” He said the Cubs deal was far and away the most attractive given the potential impact of the prospects in the deal.
Hahn mentioned they had a few other deals he would have accepted before they pulled the trigger with the Cubs. If that’s the case, you would have to say the Cubs overpaid. Why did the Cubs get rid of the last two valued players in their now barren farm system for Quintana? If you gave up Eloy Jiménez, that should have been more than enough along with the two throw-ins. And for a team lacking in minor league pitching, why would you give up your best arm in Dylan Cease?
I can understand this deal from the Sox perspective, but what were the Cubs thinking? Is this a panic move due to a disappointing first half? The Cubs need starting pitching, but more than just one. With Jake Arrieta and John Lackey both unlikely to be back, the Cubs had to acquire controllable starters. Quintana is under contract through 2020 at a bargain rate, so he definitely fits that criteria. But at what cost?
Quintana is a good No. 3 starter. He’s not a difference-maker. He’s not the dominant shut-down starter other teams fear in the playoffs. In other words, he’s not Chris Sale. So why did the Cubs give up talent like they were getting Chris Sale in return?
Keith Law had Jiménez ranked No. 5 in all of baseball. A few weeks back in a minor league home run derby, he was hitting balls off the light tower. He was the top international prospect in 2013 when the Cubs signed him. Gleyber Torres was also signed by the Cubs in 2013 before they traded him to the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman. He was the No. 2 prospect in baseball this year.
So the Cubs got rid of two of the top prospects in all of baseball, along with a young pitcher who hits 100 on the radar gun with a good curveball and developing changeup. With nothing left from the Chapman deal but memories, their total return is José Quintana.
Quintana was having a down year until recently. Thoughts were his trade value would be lessened, but based on the haul the Cubs gave up, that turned out to be a fallacy. I have always seen Quintana as overrated, even though today’s metrics rate him highly. I know wins are devalued as a meaningless statistic now, but if you have double-digit wins only one time in your career, I question how good you are. Sometimes you have to out-pitch your opponent to get victories and he doesn’t do that enough.
Why the hurry to make a deal? Couldn’t the Cubs have waited a few weeks to see how things played out after the break? Maybe they make a run or fall hopelessly behind. The Cubs won the World Series last year and it would be a disappointment not to get back to the playoffs. But this trade is not putting them over the top. If they don’t start playing like they are capable of, they’re not going anywhere anyway. Even if you had to wait until the off-season, you don’t think a package with Jiménez and Cease could get you a Chris Archer-type—someone with more upside than Quintana.
Jim Callis mentioned on The Score Friday morning that the Cubs package for Quintana would have them in play for any pitcher on the market.
This trade screams desperation. It also screams highway robbery. The Sox wouldn’t have made the deal with the Cubs unless they thought it was a slam dunk. They wouldn’t have wanted the backlash from their fan base. When the Cubs inquired about Chris Sale before he was traded to Boston, Hahn said it would take a big package starting with last years’ NL MVP—Kris Bryant. Reading between the lines, they were saying they had no interest in trading a pitcher as good as Sale to help their crosstown rival.
The Cubs and Sox have made deals before, with two of the most notable being the Sammy Sosa—George Bell trade in 1992 along with the Jon Garland for Matt Karchner deadline deal in 1998. The Cubs took the Sox in the Sosa deal, but the Sox made up for it by stealing Garland, who helped them win the World Series in 2005 for a player who was out of baseball in a few years. This trade reeks of another Sox theft. Though, Quintana should bring more to the table than Karchner did.
The bottom line is the Cubs dropped the ball drafting and developing pitching. That’s why they were forced to make this trade. With six drafts under his belt, you would think Theo would have a cache of arms already on the big league roster. Or, ready to be brought up. That’s just not the case. Outside of a few recent first-round draft picks, there has been no one of significance drafted by this organization—period.
I said no, no, no when I heard what the Cubs gave up for Quintana. My opinion hasn’t changed in the hours since. If the Cubs win a World Series in the next few years with Quintana a significant reason why, I may soften my stance. But if I see Jiménez and Cease becoming stars for the Sox and the Cubs still with just one ring, I can’t put in print what I would be thinking.