When I first took out my phone this morning and saw that I had missed 32 texts from my baseball buddies (and that more were coming in), I assumed correctly that José Quintana had finally been dealt. Never would I have guessed that it would be to the Cubs.
As I continued scanning the rapid notification stream, my eyes caught the names “Eloy Jiménez” and “Dylan Cease,” and it hit me.
When the news sank in, I was both stunned and upset. I wrote earlier this year that I fully believe that Jiménez will be a hall-of-famer one day, and Cease’s stuff is too electric to ignore. My initial reaction was one of pure, intense disappointment.
But then I thought about it some more.
Quintana was the ideal trade candidate for the Cubs save his geographic location (it’s not often that crosstown rivals complete deals) as he’s a frontline starter being paid almost nothing through 2020.
His fit on the team mainly stems off of the fact that the Cubs have found themselves in a somewhat desperate situation, with three of their five starting pitchers (John Lackey, Brett Anderson, and Jake Arrieta) being free agents after 2017.
Anderson and Lackey appear to be well past their prime, and neither have been valuable arms to this point in 2017, and Arrieta, with notorious agent Scott Boras using his 2015 Cy Young season as bargaining power, will be grossly overpaid this offseason. There’s only a marginal chance that the Cubs resign any one of them, let alone all three.
Essentially, the Cubs’ starting rotation for the next few years was a massive gaping hole. While Quintana doesn’t fill that hole completely, he makes it much tinier.
The best part about this deal, though, is that Quintana is a good pitcher. He is right around “ace” status, posting a career 3.51 ERA and 1.25 WHIP through five-plus seasons in the offense-dominated American League.
His addition into the Cubs’ rotation for the next few years doesn’t just take care of one of three holes, it decreases the need for quality in those two remaining holes. Any starting group spearheaded by Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and Quintana is a great one, regardless of who fills in the last spots.
The benefits of this deal don’t stop there, as Quintana’s immediate insertion into the rotation will make the Cubs better for the remainder of 2017.
I know that many fans are turned off by Q’s 4.49 ERA this year, but that number doesn’t tell the whole story. Since June rolled around, the Colombian lefty has a 2.70 ERA. Many attribute his struggles in April and May to a rigorous performance in the World Baseball Classic in March, something he may now have overcome. Regardless of the cause, his demons seem to have been exorcised, and he’s pitching now like the consistent star that he is.
Plus, when Quintana joins the starting five, it’ll send Mike Montgomery back into the bullpen. Montgomery has actually been one of the Cubs’ best starters this year, but his arm has a better home in the bullpen, where he’s one of two lefties. This, in turn, helps tie up loose knots in the bullpen, generally solidifying the team as a whole.
This is all not to mention Quintana’s famous clubhouse presence, as he’s known as one of the greatest teammates in the MLB.
Theo made a good trade. It definitely sucks to see Jiménez and Cease go, but the return is worth it.
Complaints that the Cubs now have no top prospects are legitimate, but, ultimately, meaningless. Yeah, there are no more big names in the Cubs’ system — because they’re all in the major leagues. The reality is that neither Jiménez nor Cease would help the Cubs win in any way during this window of hardcore competitiveness. Quintana will.
And think about the absolute traffic jam of position players that the Cubs have right now. Jiménez’s eventual arrival would displace some other deserving player that would be worth a lot more as a trade piece than a bench guy. Ultimately, the Cubs don’t need any more star hitters. They have enough. Jiménez is worth much less to this team than a great starter under cheap team control.
All this – not to mention the obvious risk involved with top prospects (Cease especially, who has already undergone Tommy John surgery) – makes Quintana far and away the safest player involved in the trade.
And this deal isn’t just good for the Cubs. It’s great for the White Sox and Chicago baseball as a whole. A blockbuster of this magnitude invigorates fanbase interest AND results in fans of both teams having emotional attachments to players on the opposite side of town, making the two sides more friends than enemies.
Yes, you should be sad to see Jiménez and Cease leave. It’s normal. They’re talented guys. But be happy for Quintana’s arrival (he’s talented too!), and understand that this was a mutually beneficial trade — neither side got the better end, and both got what they needed.
The Cubs may not be done dealing, but their first major move has been completed.
Quintana will be making his Cubs debut this Sunday, July 16, against a team that’s more familiar to him than his new teammates, the Baltimore Orioles.