The Paul MaColumn: Quintana to the Cubs, everyone wins
Wow. That happened.
The Cubs and White Sox made their first trade since the famous 2006 David Aardsma for Neal Cotts swap, which mattered very little for either team.
This one is bigger than that. This is more of the Sammy Sosa-George Bell variety of magnitude. But unlike that trade, it looks like now everyone has a chance to win. Jose Quintana immediately fills several of the Cubs short term and long term needs, of which the latter there are few — but this was a glaring one.
First, the short term: The Cubs starting rotation regressed dramatically from its historically good 2016 season. Some of it was natural, some of related to defensive regression and much of it coming in bizarre first innings (the 10-run first inning against Pittsburgh was the saddest I’ve been at baseball game since Erubiel Durazo hit a go-ahead grand slam against the Cubs at a game I attended when I was 10 years old. It was 2002 and the crowd started chanting “go on strike.” I digress.)
Adding Quintana — a top-25 arm — without breaking up ANY of your major league core is huge. The Cubs are better today for 2017 than they were yesterday. It also prevents the Brewers or Cardinals from acquiring him, and puts both said teams in precarious situations where they may need to make a trade in desperation if they choose to do so. Much like the 2014 trade that netted them Addison Russell, the Cubs set the July trade market for starting pitchers.
The long term: Jose Quintana has one of the most team-friendly contracts in baseball, being under contract until 2020. If the Cubs can’t dig out of their whole in 2017, they’ve made their odds better still for 2018, 19 and 20. Jake Arrieta — who has regressed from his 2014–2016 mode — is set to be a free agent after this season and even with regression will still command a large contract on the wrong side of 30. He’s likely not coming back, and John Lackey certainly isn’t coming back if he even finishes this season with the team (he shouldn’t). Again, Quintana is signed through 2020. That’s the next presidential election. That’s forever from now.
In acquiring Quintana, you’ve now guaranteed — barring trades — that your entire core of position players plus two top-of-the-line starters (Quintana and Lester) are with you for the next three seasons after this. That’s a lot spins at the wheel of winning a World Series. Anthony Rizzo is locked up until 2021 assuming the team picks up his options for 2020 and 2021 (they will) and the rest of the position core (Bryant, Schwarber, Russell, Baez, Happ, Contreras) hit free agency between 2022–2024.
I’ll be in my 30s. That’s forever from now.
Very few Cubs fans are upset about this trade but the ones that are, are upset mainly about losing Eloy Jiminez. Jiminez is a stud but doesn’t project to come up until 2019 — later into the Cubs window which is already deep with position player depth. Let’s say the Cubs had said Jiminez was untouchable and didn’t make the move. This is what they’d effectively be saying: We don’t want a top-of-the-rotation pitcher for the next four seasons cause we don’t want to give up an outfielder who MIGHT help us in three or four seasons. They’d be saying they want to lessen their chances of winning the World Series in 2017–2020 for the possibility of Jiminez helping it at a MINIMUM in 2019, but likely in the following seasons. That wouldn’t make sense. Even Danny Ainge would agree.
I think fans get protective of elite prospects because they represent hope. They’re promising — you don’t know if they’re gonna fail so you easily buy into the hype that’ll be game changers in every way. Getting rid of them is a sign of mortgaging your future. But Cubs fans need to remember: All of the Cubs elite prospects that were the talk of baseball a few years ago made the majors. And they won the World Series.
The Chicago Cubs won the World Series.
But I digress again.
As for the other pieces, Dylan Cease could turn into a nice starter. Some have also said he could project into a very good reliever. In either event, I’m more than OK giving him up given that we already know Jose Quintana is an elite starter. The other two players in the trade aren’t even prospects — which to that point you’d think the White Sox could have gotten more. Say, a Pierce Johnson or Felix Pena or Rob Z. But that doesn’t really matter. The backend of the package going to the White Sox is crap, but the front end is what they traded for.
Which brings us to the White Sox. This is a rare situation where it’s clearly a terrific trade for both clubs. The Sox got an elite prospect that they’ll hope is starting in the outfield for them for a decade+ alongside Luis Robert. Add that to the core of Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, Zack Collins, Jake Burger and several top draft choices from years to come, and Sox fans have plenty to get excited about. Plus all the power arms they have coming up through the minors right now. From 2012–2014, as the Cubs continued to stockpile young talent, I constantly envisioned the future team (which won the World Series if you forgot). Sox fans should be doing the same with glee.
So both teams won. The Cubs strengthened their window of now, the Sox strengthened there’s for later. I’ll see you at the parade — if not in 2017, then sometime in 2018–2022. And maybe the Sox parade sometime after that.