In the first blockbuster of the Major League trade season the Chicago Cubs and their crosstown rivals completed an unexpected deal with the Cubs sending their top two prospects, OF Eloy Jimenez and RHP Dylan Cease, in exchange for one of the most reliable left handed starters in all of baseball the past five years, Jose Quintana.
I know that this deal will be a tough pill to swallow for some. Quintana is currently having his worst season (4-8, 4.49 ERA), while Jimenez and Cease are the two crown jewels of the Cubs system and have shown flashes of brilliance the past two seasons. But there are several key factors to keep in mind. First and foremost: The Cubs are still a contender and the rotation was badly in need of a boost. They just acquired a #2-3 starter without making any subtractions from their Major League roster. If the young offensive players can right themselves in the second half the Cubs are now in a position to take advantage of the situation with four solid starters lined up for the postseason.
Another factor to consider is that this trade is not just about a 2017 run. Jose Quintana is not just the type of cost controlled starter that they Cubs have been seeking for years, but he has one of the most fantastic contracts for a proven left handed starter in the league. Quintana is owed approximately 3.5 million for the rest of 2017 and then just 8.5 million in 2018. After that the Cubs will have tremendous flexibility as very reasonable team options exists for the next two seasons (10.5M and 11.5M respectively). So, in total the Cubs control the 28 year old lefty for the next 3.5 years and at most will pay him 34 million dollars.
The Cubs were also badly in need of starting pitching heading into 2018 and beyond. Quintana can now team with Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks for the foreseeable future. Due to injury and stagnation from a couple of starting pitching prospects in the upper levels of the Minor Leagues this season, the team possessed no reliable internal options for filling as many as three rotation slots behind Lester and Hendricks in 2018. They now possess a starting pitching core that provides the team flexibility heading into the offseason. While at least one more arm will be required for 2018, the team no longer needs to acquire a top of the rotation starter, and can instead focus on only seeking out deals that make sense and will not need to dive head first into the free agent market.
The price was indeed high, but not untenable. Eloy Jimenez now joins fellow high-profile IFA signings Gleyber Torres and Jorge Soler as the key piece in a major trade for arms to help out the big league club. The big slugger has participated in the past two Futures Games, including a dazzling performance last year, and continued to break out despite missing the first part of 2017 due to injury. His power potential is as high as any prospect in the minors and he has been developing a nice all-around game at the plate, learning plate discipline and when to drive the ball the other way. He now joins Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert and Michael Kopech in the White Sox system as consensus top 20 prospects in all of baseball.
Dylan Cease is of course the other major piece in this deal. Featuring an upper 90s fastball and power 12-6 curve Cease has posted imposing strikeout numbers throughout his short career. He is not without risk as a prospect however. An elbow injury in High School required Tommy John surgery and the Cubs have handled him with kid gloves the past two seasons as he has worked his way back to health. A lack of command and a reliable third pitch at this point (his change-up is a work in progress) have some projecting his future to be in a Major League bullpen where he would undoubtedly be expected to become a lights out closer, but there is still plenty of time for him to refine his command and change-up in order to reach his top of the rotation potential.
The other pieces of the deal are Matt Rose and Bryant Flete. Rose is a tall and lanky corner infielder with a long swing but legit power. He is a long shot, but it never hurts to have a guy with that kind of power around in case you can clean up his swing. Bryant Flete is a nice organizational player. He was once a SS/2B with decent speed, but he has filled out in recent years and is 2B-only at this point and is no longer a threat on the base paths. He has broken through with added power this year to become a Carolina League All-Star but he is limited by a low ceiling.
Filed under: trades