The next month is going to be huge for the future of the White Sox. General manager Rick Hahn is looking to land a major return in a trade for Quintana, and he badly needs Rodon to re-establish himself as a front-of-the-rotation option post-Chris Sale/Quintana.
There are few musts for the rebuilding Sox, who are taking a patient approach. But for Hahn and everyone else around Guaranteed Rate Field, the second half of the season would go much more smoothly if the Quintana and Rodon pieces fall into place.
Quintana was 2-7 with a 5.60 ERA after getting pounded by the Red Sox on May 30, by far the worst start of his career. Who could remember how brilliantly he'd pitched for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic?
But this time of the year, scouts tend to have a short memory. It doesn't take many strong outings for a known quantity like Quintana to rebuild his market, and with his work against the Yankees on Tuesday night, he looked well on his way.
Quintana held the Yankees to two hits in 6 1/3 innings, leaving to a nice ovation after walking Tyler Austin. The White Sox led, 1-0, and it appeared Quintana still had plenty left after 101 pitches. The White Sox went on to win, 4-3.
In his past five starts, the 28-year-old Quintana has compiled a 1.78 ERA, striking out 30 in 30 1/3 innings. If he can keep this up, he could be the hottest name on the starting-pitcher market when teams start to get serious about adding reinforcements who can help them reach the postseason or to roll to the World Series.
There's not a team Quintana couldn't help, as he's been both healthy (at least 200 innings in each of the past four years) and effective since moving into the White Sox rotation in 2012. You better believe that Yankees manager Joe Girardi was watching him closely as he worked to Aaron Judge and a lineup weakened by the absence of Starlin Castro, Matt Holliday and Aaron Hicks.
The Yanks could use an arm like Quintana's, as could their rivals, the Red Sox, and teams such as the Astros, Mariners, Dodgers, Cubs and even the Braves, who are thinking long term.
Girardi sees Quintana having a tough time in April and May as a non-issue.
"You've seen him pitch for the last couple of years," Girardi said. "His last start was outstanding. Sometimes, for whatever reason, guys' years just aren't as good. The starting pitchers walk a real fine line. He's got real good stuff. That's the bottom line."
Because Quintana's contract gives his team control through 2020, Hahn has insisted he won't deal the lefty unless he gets back multiple impact prospects, as he did in the deal that sent Sale to the Red Sox in December. Those offers may be coming soon, as it looks like a seller's market for high-end starters.
With the Rays and Pirates considered unlikely to deal Chris Archer or Gerrit Cole, respectively, a team like the Cubs seeking a starter who can help them this season and in the future could find itself with few choices. Oakland's Sonny Gray (eligible for free agency after 2019) could wind up being the only other choice to add a starter with shelf life.
There are some other names out there. But barring a surprise, it's going to be Quintana and Gray who headline the trade rumors.
The White Sox already have a stockpile of arms in the pipeline. They will take long looks at Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Carson Fulmer and Reynaldo Lopez over the next year. It's troubling that Rodon has become another question mark.
He was supposed to slot into the rotation behind Quintana, showing off the fastball-slider combination that made him the third overall pick in the 2014 Draft. But Rodon was behind at the start of Spring Training, which raised questions about his preparation, and he hasn't been able to catch up.
The White Sox placed Rodon on the disabled list to start the season, citing biceps bursitis, and he's progressed slowly. He spent June trying to pitch himself into form in the Minor Leagues, but he wound up with a 10.06 ERA after four starts -- three in Triple-A and one in Class A Advanced.
"All the starts were terrible,'' Rodon said Tuesday. "They were bad. That's it."
Rodon will face the Yankees on Wednesday night, and he might just pick up where Quintana left off, shutting them down. Baseball can be a funny game that way.
But the White Sox aren't looking for instant success. They just want Rodon to get his feet back under him while he's pitching alongside Quintana, and they'd love a fast finish that sets up Rodon to enter next season with confidence. He's an important piece for a rotation that is about to get extremely inexperienced.
It's good for the Sox to get him back on the mound. It's even better that Quintana is looking like himself again.