After the White Sox traded Chris Sale during the Winter Meetings, GM Rick Hahn said the team was likely to take some time before making more moves. Of course, Adam Eaton was traded the next day and Jose Quintana rumors started swirling in full force. Quintana has been at the forefront of the hot stove for nearly the entire offseason and the White Sox have been gathering their due diligence on Quintana’s value and his suitors since at least last July.
Quintana, who turns 28 on January 24th, is owed roughly 38 million over the next four years. He’s thrown 200 inning four years in a row, is top ten for pitchers in baseball in WAR since entering the league and is coming off an All-Star season. The White Sox own the lefty’s rights through 2020 and as they would say in the media, their hand is not forced in trading the ultra-valuable asset. Despite the natural hedge the White Sox have given Quintana’s extended ownership rights, the White Sox should have every intention of moving him this offseason all things considered. I suppose it’s feasible that Quintana could be a starter on the White Sox next playoff team, but the opportunity cost of keeping him is not worth the risk of finding out. Similar to the case of Adam Eaton, Quintana’s value is likely to never be higher and the White Sox would be remiss to have Quintana be their opening day starter in 2017 and that's with complete consideration of his durability and plus makeup.
Quintana is scheduled to be a participant in SoxFest the weekend of January 27th. I would never imply that a seasoned negotiator like Rick Hahn would assign an arbitrary deadline to moving his most valuable asset, but it makes sense he is moved in the two weeks leading up to the fan convention. If the White Sox are indeed set on moving Quintana, they likely know everything they need to know by now. They’ve had several months of dialogue with several teams and their scouts and analytics department have likely exhausted all possibilites in preparing for this trade. At this point, the White Sox know how the industry values Quintana.
That being said, to my estimation, there are seven conceivable trade partners who are in the cards to be the landing spot for Quintana. With varying degrees of likelihood, I ranked them in order of least likely to most likely and pondered how trade negotiations may work. Needless to be said, this is all conjecture.
7. Rangers – The Rangers are probably interested in acquiring a pitcher like Quintana with Yu Darvish reaching free agency after 2017 but their farm probably isn't good enough to absorb the shock of trading for someone like Quintana after the recent trades for Cole Hamels, Johnathon Lucroy and Carlos Beltran. Even so, the Rangers’ Jon Daniels can never be ruled out for a big trade and he has a good working relationship with White Sox GM Rick Hahn.
Trade talks: Sox insist on Nomar Mazara as a headliner, Daniels balks at it. Sox insist on lefty Yohander Mendez, Daniels balks at it. Best offer is something like Leody Tavares, Andy Ibanez, Joey Gallo and an A-ball arm. White Sox don’t give it much consideration and trade talks don't go far.
6. Dodgers – While seemingly set on starting pitching, the Dodgers can never be ruled out for a trade and they have talked to the White Sox on multiple fronts since July including at least Sale, Quintana and Todd Frazier. With the diversity of the executives in their front office and the depth in their farm system, the Dodgers are always a threat to make a splash. However, without a hole to fill, it seems unlikely the Dodgers would make the leap to acquire Quintana with the luxury of being able to wait until July to reevaluate their needs.
Trade talks: White Sox start by insisting on Bellinger and three other good prospects. Dodgers, lacking a sense of urgency, balk at it. Talks don't get far at all.
5. Rockies – Usually noted on the periphery in the Quintana sweepstakes, the Rockies have the type of prospects the Sox would want in return for their prized lefty. Quintana could be a difference maker to a team that’s close but not all the way there, but he could also compromise their greater window if his relentlessness attacks around the zone don't translate to the pitching hell that is Coors Field. With most being unable to get any sort of read on the Rockies’ front office, one thing is clear, they prefer flame-throwers in their ballpark and Quintana is not that.
Trade talks: White Sox insist on one of David Dahl or Brandon Rodgers as the headliner. Players like Raimel Tapia and Ryan McMahon make plenty of sense to the rebuilding White Sox as well. With plenty of depth in the organization all over the diamond, the Rockies could be more willing to trade some top prospects with the luxury of plenty of team control throughout their budding roster. With a wild card of a front office, it’s tough to gauge any talks here, but if Jeff Bridich did happen to like Quintana and even considers including Dahl or Rodgers, the White Sox would be listening earnestly.
4. Yankees – With Michael Pineda a free agent and Masahiro Tanaka likely opting to free agency, or worse, getting hurt, the Yankees rotation is bad and only going to get worse. They have a stable of prospects after trades of Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman but a seemingly-reformed Brian Cashman is hoping to build a new core with his blue-chippers in tow. That being said, Joel Sherman reported the Yankees will be in on every big starting pitcher moving forward.
Trade talks: Sox insist on Gleyber Torres or Clint Frazier as a headliner. Cashman says no on Torres, who will be a top ten prospect by midseason if not preseason, but the Yankees could conceivably be coaxed into including the flashy Clint Frazier. White Sox ask for Frazier, Blake Rutherford, Miguel Andujar and an arm. Yankees counter with Frazier, Jorge Mateo, Dillon Tate and a lottery ticket. There would seem to be a deterrent in the way of urgency with the Yankees lack of competitiveness in a great division. However, given Sherman's report, it's not inconceivable that baseball’s longest reigning General Manager reverts back to his old ways and moves a chuck of his routinely overrated farm system for a front-of-the-rotation arm his team sorely needs moving forward.
3. Astros – Houston probably has the biggest need of all teams involved. Nobody knows who Dallas Keuchel really is and while Lance McCullers and his breaking ball are absolutely nasty, he’s yet to earn the track record to be trusted entirely in a season that likely extends to October. Past that, they have a hoard of on-the-cusp pitching prospects as potential #3’s and back-of-rotation filler like Colin McHugh and Charlie Morton. Simply put, the Astros rotation, while full of depth, doesn’t bode well for them against the likes of Boston, Cleveland or any of the National League contenders in a playoff series. With one of the best lineups in the league, Houston's time is now and Quintana could bring plenty of certainty to a rotation that lacks it.
Trade talks: White Sox ask for Martes, Kyle Tucker, David Paulino and a lottery ticket. Lunhow responds with Tucker, Paulino, Teoscar Hernandez and an A-baller. Lunhow is insistent that they won’t trade Martes, as he can contribute in 2017, but it’s fathomable that he becomes available for a player of Quintana's value. Astros’ top prospects, with the exception of perhaps Kyle Tucker, don’t match up all that well with the White Sox’s preferences. Astros’ potential inclusion of Martes likely puts a potential Astros’ package in consideration with the top two contenders for Quintana.
2. Braves – Atlanta's local media is beating the drum on the Braves as a contender for both Quintana and Tampa’s Chris Archer but the national media has yet to embrace with idea with the same enthusiasm. I think that changes shortly. If they're ready to make a jump on their timeline, and they certainly have the depth that would rationalize such a change of course, they could make it happen.
Trade talks: Sox ask for Ozzie Albies, Sean Newcomb, Kevin Maitan and Alex Jackson. Braves respond with Albies, Newcomb, Austin Riley and a lottery arm. White Sox like the front end of Albies and Newcomb but would ultimately need a package that is deeper to be enticed to go through with such a deal. Supposed darling of Kenny Williams Alex Jackson could be involved in talks. Travis Demertitte would make sense to the White Sox with his power and on-base combo but he has some flags in character. The 2014 first rounder was suspended for testing positive for a masking agent and then was traded for below his ascertainable for Lucas Harrell of all people. Another name to watch would be the Braves' recently acquired left-hander Luiz Gohara. While the Braves don’t have the ideal headliner the White Sox would prefer, Atlanta’s system offers a wide net of opportunity for the White Sox to diversify their risk when moving their best asset off the roster.
1. Pirates – This is a team that would be solidly in the Wild Card hunt with the acquisition of Quintana and they have some high-end prospect to boot. Pirates’ payroll constraints make Quintana as valuable to them as to any team. While I am entirely shocked and amused by both Huntington’s willingness to move prospects and his urgency to be more competitive, the Pirates are supposedly very enthusiastic on acquiring Quintana. It seems that the Pirates may need clarity on the rest of their roster and payroll (Andrew McCutchen, Antonio Bastardo, Tony Watson and Josh Harrison are all on the block Harrison) but Pirates look to be involved to the end on these negotiations once the moving parts on their roster and payroll get ironed out.
Trade talks: White Sox insist on Austin Meadows, Neil Huntington refuses to include the heir to Andrew McCutchen’s spot in the outfield. Past Meadows, it seems the Pirates are also unwilling to include 1B/OF (DH in reality) Josh Bell. Although I am not sure that the White Sox would like to anchor their Quintana return around someone like Bell anyways. Huntington responds with the polarizing Tyler Glasnow, shortstop Kevin Newman, A-Ball righty Mitch Keller and catcher Elias Diaz. White Sox are likely considering closely. While Chicago would love to acquire two up-the-middle bats with some certainty of production being nearly MLB ready, there would likely be hesitancy to hitch their wagon to a couple pitching prospects with valid doubt in their profile. While both great arms, Glasnow has never thrown strikes at nay rate to inspire confidence (despite all his success in the minors) and Keller has just one appearance above low A-Ball. There’s the making of a deal here, but it’s quite possible the White Sox would have wet feet about a Meadows-less package – and that’s likely their only option with this Quintana suitor.
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