CHICAGO -- Forget waiting two or three years -- or even until the end of this season -- to evaluate the Jose Quintana trade. Two weeks after it was concluded, it's safe to say that the deal between the Cubs and White Sox will turn out exactly as advertised.It's a
CHICAGO -- Forget waiting two or three years -- or even until the end of this season -- to evaluate the Jose Quintana trade. Two weeks after it was concluded, it's safe to say that the deal between the Cubs and White Sox will turn out exactly as advertised.
It's a win for both of Chicago's teams, with 20-year-old right fielder Eloy Jimenez flexing his future impact for the rebuilders, while an in-his-prime Quintana has awakened the champions.
Quintana, who will start Friday in Milwaukee, helped the Cubs close a gap of 5 1/2 games on the Brewers in an eight-day span, asserting their strength. The White Sox have had a flurry of trade activity since dealing the lefty, with Thursday's swap (Dan Jennings to the Rays) their fourth trade in 15 days.
Who knows what would have happened for either team if they hadn't been bold enough to do business with their crosstown rival?
The Cubs paid heavily for Quintana -- the deal was actually a 4-for-1 proposition, with right-hander Dylan Cease, ranked as the Cubs' top pitching prospect, infielder Bryant Flete and first baseman Matt Rose also going to the White Sox -- but at 43-45, they were highly motivated to jump-start the defense of their championship.
They won eight of the first nine games after the All-Star break, with Quintana throwing seven shutout innings in Baltimore and then beating the Cardinals in his Wrigley Field debut, and suddenly the Cubs were looking like the 103-win team powerhouse from 2016.
"I think it figures in more than people may even realize," manager Joe Maddon said about the significance of the Quintana trade. "The game in Baltimore was a really big game for us. The new guy comes out and pitches great. He also set a standard in the way he did it, I thought. ... Everything he did that day was what you want everybody else to watch."
Maddon believes a frontline acquisition always sends a message.
"The mental factor, all that played in it, too," he said. "Now Jose is getting comfortable here. ... His acquisition, I think, by the end of the year will turn out to look even more prominent."
The White Sox lost their first eight games after trading Quintana, but in their position, that's not the negative it seems. The Sox are all about accumulating Minor Leaguers who they can put alongside elite prospects such as Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert.
Getting the Quintana trade resolved early opened the door for White Sox general manager Rick Hahn to make subsequent deals with Todd Frazier and relievers Player Page for David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Anthony Swarzak and Jennings.
The one game that stood out the most for the Sox during this time was Jimenez's one-man showcase last Sunday in North Carolina.
In his ninth game for the Class A Advanced Winston-Salem Dash, Jimenez went 5-for-6 with a home run and two doubles. White Sox director of player development Chris Getz had a hard time believing that the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Jimenez really is only 20 watching from his seats at BB&T Ballpark.
"Physically, he's got great presence," Getz said. "He's got sort of a natural feel for hitting, considering his age and everything -- bat speed, clean bat path. I saw him spit on some tough pitches and obviously drive the ball when he had pitches he could handle. ... He's a guy who doesn't want to just get to the big leagues, he wants to be an impact player."
Jimenez, signed to a $2.8 million bonus in 2013, represented the Cubs in the past two All-Star Futures Games, and he ranks as MLB Pipeline's No. 7 overall prospect. He started this season on the disabled list with a strained shoulder, but he entered Thursday hitting .301 with 10 home runs, 24 walks and a .916 OPS in 54 games in Class A Advanced this season. Jimenez went deep again Thursday.
Jimenez could be pushing for Major League consideration at this time next season, but Getz points out there probably won't be reason to rush him. Moncada, regarded by MLBPipeline.com as the No. 1 ranked prospect in all of baseball, should be established by the time he arrives.
"They're both very talented players, [with] different styles of play," Getz said. "One's a [switch-hitting] infielder, one's a [right-handed-hitting] outfielder. Who's to say where these guys end up? At the end of the day these are both high-ceiling type players. The sky's the limit because they can do a little bit of everything on the baseball field."
The White Sox were 11 games under .500 and in line for the fourth pick in next year's Draft when they traded Quintana. They've got a shot to wind up first overall and almost certainly will pick in the top three, which they hope will allow them to add a Kris Bryant-type talent next June.
There are below-the-surface benefits to the Quintana deal for the Cubs, too. He came with a contract that not only gives them control through 2020, but he won't make more than $10.5 million per season unless a top-three Cy Young Award finish triggers an escalator clause.
That under-value deal adds critical financial flexibility, which could help the Cubs land Justin Verlander before Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Deals like this don't come along often, for a buyer or a seller.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.