We learned something new about Theo Epstein and company Thursday.
They really like Jose Quintana.
I mean really like, to the extent they're willing to give up an ace haul for him. Eloy Jimenez is in the best-prospect-in-baseball conversation already and may become the undisputed No. 1 when some of the players in the same range graduate to the majors, Yoan Moncada included.
You know Yoan Moncada, right? He's the other-worldly prospect the White Sox got back from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale deal along with Michael Kopech, a projectable arm with an electric fastball and league-leading strikeout potential.
You see? They more or less matched Sale's price tag in acquiring Quintana, and some of us thought it was too much for Sale at the time.
Of course, it's not an apples-to-apples comparison. Sale has two years of team control beyond this one while Quintana has three, which was a major selling point for both. Still, between the Sale trade, the Adam Eaton trade and now this Quintana trade, we're seeing a devaluing of prospects across baseball. What was considered untouchable for the last decade or so has suddenly become the going rate for a proven asset with a moderate salary.
And what do you know? The White Sox were the beneficiaries in all three of those deals. What a job Rick Hahn has done remaking that farm system, not only acquiring prospects in bulk, but also landing several of the "untouchable" variety.
In fact, one of the pieces overshadowed by the Moncada, Jimenez and Lucas Giolito types may be the most immediate beneficiary. Reynaldo Lopez, who came over in the Eaton trade, has put together an encouraging three-start stretch at Triple-A Charlotte, rebounding from a bumpy start to allow four earned runs in 18 2/3 innings with 21 strikeouts to just three walks. He can hit triple digits with his fastball, and you may recall he had an 11-strikeout effort during a late-season stint with the Nationals last August.
Or there's always a chance Giolito himself gets the call. He has been hit or miss at Charlotte this year, but his last start Saturday was a two-hit, 10-strikeout gem.The White Sox don't need a fifth starter until July 28, so they have time to figure it out.
Quintana himself also figures to benefit from this move, because even though the Cubs disappointed in the first half, they have far more talent at the major-league level than the White Sox do. It's a huge upgrade in supporting cast for a pitcher whose supporting cast has repeatedly let him down over the years. Remember: The biggest knock on Quintana prior to this season was his consistently low win total despite four consecutive 200-inning seasons with a combined 3.35 ERA.
How will those numbers look with the Cubs lineup backing them? Here's one estimate:
|Rest-of-season projection for Jose Quintana, according to SportsLine|
with White Sox
Granted, Quintana's ERA is inflated to this point, but he has gotten back on track over his last seven starts, putting together a 2.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings. That stretch has included some early hooks, making it not quite as impressive as the raw numbers, but his home run rate has normalized during it -- a trend I would expect to continue in the more favorable league and dare I say the more favorable park (depending which way the wind is blowing).
You take the Quintana of old and put him on a team with legitimate World Series aspirations, and I don't think it's a stretch to say he'll be a top-24 starting pitcher in Fantasy Baseball.
Is that an ace? No, but it's better than what any Cubs pitcher has provided them this year. And Epstein wouldn't pay this kind of price unless he had complete confidence in the turnaround.