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White Sox continue to stockpile elite talent

Additions of Jimenez, Cease in Quintana deal progress impressive rebuild
MLB.com @philgrogers

CHICAGO -- On Nov. 9, 2011, the White Sox signed 22-year-old left-hander Jose Quintana to a Major League contract. He had reached Minor League free agency a week earlier, when the Yankees declined to reward him with a spot on their 40-man roster after a strong season in the Florida State League.

On March 23, 2014, after he had just thrown 200 innings with a 3.51 ERA in his first full season, the White Sox signed Quintana to a five-year, $21 million deal that included two more option years, giving them seven seasons of control.

CHICAGO -- On Nov. 9, 2011, the White Sox signed 22-year-old left-hander Jose Quintana to a Major League contract. He had reached Minor League free agency a week earlier, when the Yankees declined to reward him with a spot on their 40-man roster after a strong season in the Florida State League.

On March 23, 2014, after he had just thrown 200 innings with a 3.51 ERA in his first full season, the White Sox signed Quintana to a five-year, $21 million deal that included two more option years, giving them seven seasons of control.

On Thursday, after a four-year run in which Quintana's WAR ranked seventh among starting pitchers -- ahead of Jon Lester, David Price, Yu Darvish, Justin Verlander and dozens of other big-name, big-salary arms -- the White Sox traded him across town to Wrigley Field for the Cubs' top overall prospect (right fielder Eloy Jimenez) and pitching prospect (Dylan Cease).

Video: White Sox acquire four prospects for Jose Quintana

The White Sox had gotten a 3.51 ERA over 1,055 1/3 innings pitched from Quintana at a cost of around $10 million. More than half of the guaranteed money in his long-term deal goes along to the Cubs with him -- not that the North Siders will complain, because he remains one of the best bargains in baseball.

Pardon this rehash as the White Sox rebuild. But it is worth considering, because almost everyone with the team that played a role in this success story -- the scouts who identified Quintana, the executives who signed him and the pitching coaches who worked with -- are hard at work to build a perennial contender for the years 2020 and beyond.

Early returns -- including a recent $52-million expense to land Cuban center fielder Luis Robert -- are extremely encouraging. The Quintana trade continued the momentum the Sox gained last December by dealing Chris Sale and Adam Eaton for seven prospects, including the dynamic Yoan Moncada, whom MLBPipeline.com ranks No. 1 overall among future stars.

Jimenez was the most coveted player in the 2013 international class. The Cubs gave him $2.8 million to sign, and he's growing into everything they thought he would.

Jimenez played in the past two Futures Games and seems on the verge of a promotion to Double-A, which might have already come if he wasn't sidelined with a bone bruise in his right shoulder to start this season.

"We view [Jimenez] as similar to Moncada -- where Yoan was in his development the year before we acquired him,'' general manager Rick Hahn said. "[Jimenez has] the potential to grow into a potent offensive force … one of the more exciting prospects in baseball with a diverse skill set that can impact the game in multiple ways.''

I'm no scout, but I did watch Jimenez and Moncada play against each other in an exhibition game late last February. Just seeing them on the same field, it was Jimenez who looked like the best prospect in the game. He's not viewed that differently, either, as he's ranked No. 8 among all prospects.

Video: Merkin on when Yoan Moncada would get called up

With these three major trades, their past two Drafts and the staggering signing of Robert, the White Sox have built a core that in a couple of years could compare to the layer of prospects that the Cubs have brought to Wrigley Field over the past three seasons.

But they're way ahead of the game in terms of pitching prospects. Nobody has more potential front-line starters or late-inning relievers than the White Sox.

The 21-year-old Cease joins a line of power arms that includes Michael Kopech (21 years old), Lucas Giolito (23), Reynaldo Lopez (23), Carson Fulmer (23), Zack Burdi (22), Alec Hansen (22), Dane Dunning (22) and Spencer Adams (21).

Kopech's inning of work in Sunday's Futures Game was electrifying, with him commanding triple-digit fastballs. When he threw one strike at 99 mph, prospect guru Jonathan Mayo said, "That was his changeup.''

Video: WLD@USA: Michael Kopech throws strong inning

The White Sox feel absolutely no need to rush anyone to the Major Leagues, as you'll note by Moncada returning to Triple-A Charlotte after a week in which he traveled to Miami for the Futures Game and Tacoma, Wash., for the Triple-A All-Star Game. The Red Sox promoted him to Fenway Park from Double-A Portland last September, but the White Sox seem inclined to complete his education with a full season at Triple-A.

Why not? The environment around Guaranteed Rate Field may be less than ideal over the next six weeks as Hahn continues to try to add advanced prospects in trades for veteran players.

You know the names of most of the players who are available -- closer David Robertson, third baseman Todd Frazier, switch-hitting outfielder Melky Cabrera, lefty starter Derek Holland and relievers Tommy Kahnle, Anthony Swarzak and Dan Jennings. But what about one more?

Avisail Garcia is 26 and just earned a spot on the American League All-Star team. His two-way production and approach is what the White Sox hoped for when they acquired him for Jake Peavy four years ago. But Garcia will be only two years away from free agency after this season.

Garcia is at the point where the Sox should either sign him to an extension or be open to trading him to a team that thinks he can help them win in 2018 and '19. It's a tricky situation, but the handling of Quintana suggests that Hahn & Co. can figure it out.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.

Chicago White Sox