CHICAGO -- On Tuesday, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, at the All-Star FanFest in Miami with his youngest son, Charlie, ducked behind an exhibit to take a call.
On the other end? Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, who was interested in left-hander Jose Quintana.
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By that night, the deal was agreed to and on Thursday the clubs announced the major crosstown trade that sent the White Sox ace to the defending World Series champs in exchange for two Top 100 Prospects in outfielder Eloy Jimenez (No. 8) and right-handed pitcher Dylan Cease (No. 63), plus first baseman Matt Rose and infielder Bryant Flete.
"Frankly, it's incredibly difficult to trade a player like Quintana. Perhaps even more so because of the type of person he is and what he's meant to this organization," Hahn said. "The Cubs are getting not only a great pitcher who we expect will thrive for them but also a tremendous clubhouse presence and a great person. It's not easy to let someone like that walk out the door."
Adding Jimenez and Cease, the Cubs' top two prospects, gives the White Sox nine of the Top 100 Prospects in baseball according to MLBPipeline.com, which is tied for the most in the Majors. Those two newly acquired players join Yoan Moncada (No. 1), right-hander Michael Kopech (No. 11), outfielder Luis Robert (No. 23), right-handers Lucas Giolito (No. 28), Reynaldo Lopez (No. 36) and Carson Fulmer (No. 59) and catcher Zack Collins (No. 68) on the Top 100 list.
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It is just the latest deal in the White Sox ongoing rebuild that has remade the organization from top to bottom. Hahn hated to give up Quintana, not only an All-Star hurler but an All-Star person, deeming his conversation with the 28-year-old southpaw one of the most difficult he has ever had.
But this latest prospect haul, with Jimenez taking the No. 2 spot among White Sox prospects and Cease sliding in at No. 8, builds on that critical mass needed for sustained success in the near future.
"We do feel we are closer in achieving our long-term goals today than we were yesterday," Hahn said. "We feel this package of prospects we received today not only was far and away the best offer, the best possibility, that we've discussed with any club since we've started this process roughly a year ago or so, but it's one that allows us to continue to add to the prospect base that we've accumulated in a potentially high-impact way."
The highest level of interest in Quintana came last December in the days after the White Sox traded Chris Sale to the Red Sox and Adam Eaton to the Nationals and picked up again over the last five to 10 days just before and during the All-Star break, Hahn said.
Hahn and Epstein exchanged text messages shortly after the 2017 MLB Draft, checking on needs and potential fits, but those interactions didn't lead to more talk until Sunday morning.
At that point, Hahn reached out to Epstein to tell him something was going to happen with Quintana in the coming days. Hahn had a fairly clear sense of what it would take for the Cubs to land Quintana, if they had interest. They were, and by Tuesday the deal was agreed upon, and details were finalized Wednesday night.
"There's nothing for us to talk about with the Cubs without Jimenez being part of it," Hahn said. "We view him -- and I think the industry, as well, so it's not just our potentially biased opinion or subjective opinion -- we view him as similar to Moncada, where Yoan was in his development the year before we acquired him, with the potential to grow into a potent offensive force. Again, one of the more exciting prospects in baseball with a diverse skill set that can impact the game multiple ways."
Jimenez, 20, is batting .271 with eight home runs, 32 RBIs and 23 runs scored over 42 games this season with Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach in the Carolina League. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Jimenez missed the first six weeks of the season with a right shoulder injury, but he rebounded to earn a spot on the World Team at the SiriusXM Futures Game for the second consecutive season.
Cease, 21, is 1-2 with a 2.79 ERA in 51 2/3 innings, with 74 strikeouts and a .214 opponents average over 13 starts this season with Class A South Bend. He has allowed one or no runs eight times and three hits or fewer 10 times, while averaging 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings. Cease threw six hitless innings on April 19 at Great Lakes, and he struck out 10 batters over 4 2/3 innings on April 29 at Fort Worth.
Quintana has a 4.49 ERA over 18 starts, but admitted to Hahn being somewhat affected by all of the trade talk. The 2016 All-Star moves to the North Side and joins a rotation fighting for a second straight championship, a feat the White Sox hope this same deal helps them accomplish in the future.
"Our intent was to get the best possible package of talent back, guys we project to be not only potential contributors to a championship club but impactful talent on a championship club," Hahn said. "We tried to craft what we felt was an appropriate cutoff line for what we felt was a fair return of a player of Jose's talent and control.
"It did yield not only this offer that we took from the Cubs but others we felt were above that line here in recent days. But, ultimately, the Cubs yield was far and away the most attractive given the potential impact of the front end of the deal."