After a nearly silent All-Star break on the rumor front, the Cubs and White Sox stunned the baseball world by announcing a blockbuster deal that sent left-hander Jose Quintana from Chicago’s American League club to its National League team in exchange for minor leaguers Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease, Matt Rose and Bryant Flete. Over the past 24 hours, both teams have addressed the media, pundits from around the media have weighed in on the swap, and others have reported details on alternative talks that each team had leading up to the blockbuster move. Here’s a before-and-after, if you will, of how what might be the summer’s biggest trade transpired…
- The Yankees, Brewers and Astros were all involved in varying levels of trade talks regarding Quintana before the Cubs ultimately acquired him, per Jon Morosi of MLB.com (via Twitter). The Braves, too, were in on Quintana “until the end,” USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. Meanwhile, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post tweets that the Rockies were “never really in” on Quintana despite a potential need for some rotation upgrades with some of their younger arms sputtering lately.
- The Cubs tried to engage the Tigers in trade talks on Michael Fulmer before acquiring Quintana, reports Nightengale in a full column. However, Detroit gave no indication that it was willing to listen unless the Cubs were willing to include both Javier Baez and Ian Happ in trade talks. They also inquired on Justin Verlander, per Morosi (also via Twitter), though he notes that, similarly, talks between the two sides “never gained momentum.”
- While many were stunned to see the Sox and Cubs line up on a trade — their first since 2006 — White Sox GM Rick Hahn scoffed at the notion that their shared city would serve as an impediment to trade talks, writes Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times. “This notion that we wouldn’t do business with them because they’re in town — or somehow we would actually take an inferior baseball deal for non-baseball reasons because of emotion or a rivalry or something totally unrelated to putting the best possible team on the field for the next several years — is laughable,” said Hahn. The South Side GM went on to laud Jimenez’s upside, calling him a potential middle-of-the-order bat with power potential and the ability to hit to all fields. Hahn adds that yesterday’s package 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 or ago or so.”
- The Cubs believed that they were out of the running to acquire Quintana after talking to Hahn in June, president of baseball operations told reporters (via Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun-Times). Hahn, though, re-engaged with Epstein on Sunday night, and the two talked over the next few days, including a conversation that included Hahn ducking behind an exhibit at All-Star FanFest in Miami to avoid being seen (per ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers, on Twitter). Ultimately, it became clear that the Cubs would have to part with two of their very best prospects to get the deal done. “This deal had zero-percent chance of happening without both Eloy and Cease in it,” said Epstein. The Cubs president went on to say that they’ve been trying to acquire a pitcher like Quintana for “a long time” and added that his analytics and scouting teams “[dug] deep” to determine whether there were any changes that led to Quintana’s slow start t the season. “Our assessment on both fronts was that he is the same guy, and our staff felt that way with conviction,” Epstein said.
- Also via Wittenmyer’s column, Epstein said that the team isn’t necessarily done yet, though their play in the next two weeks will dictate what other moves are or aren’t made. “We need to play well coming out of the gates here, and we’ll assess what we’re trying to do in large part based on how we play and where we are in the standings, and how realistic we think a World Series run is this year,” Epstein said. “Everything is still on the table for this year.”
- ESPN’s Keith Law opines (Insider subscription required and recommended) that both clubs did well in the trade. The Cubs picked up a durable arm that has a near-ace-level track record over the past three years whose raw stuff “didn’t really waver” even through his struggles earlier this season. Quintana can help offset the loss of right-hander Jake Arrieta after the season, joining Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks in the rotation for the next several years. His contract is also affordable enough that the team can comfortably pursue rotation help on the free-agent market this winter. Law projects Jimenez as a middle-of-the-order bat and suggests that he alone could’ve been an acceptable return, though the inclusion of Cease sweetens the deal. Cease has questions about his command as well as his durability and may end up in the ’pen, though his velocity and pair of potentially above-average secondary offerings make him a nice upside play. Law notes that he’s been leapfrogged by a pair of pitching prospects on the Cubs’ organizational rankings, which might’ve made him easier to deal.
- Both Nightengale and Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network opine that it’s ridiculous that this is just the second trade these two teams have made this decade and offer praise for Hahn and Epstein for their pragmatic approach to dealing with one another. Teams are making more rational and data-driven decisions than ever before, Rosenthal notes, ultimately surmising that that trend should also include a willingness to deal within the same city and within the same division.
- Yahoo’s Jeff Passan writes that Quintana’s contract was every bit as important to the Cubs as Quintana himself. With significant arbitration raises looming for players like Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Hendricks, Javier Baez, Carl Edwards Jr. and others looming in the next two years, the team’s enviable young core is going to rapidly become considerably more expensive. Shedding money from aging veterans like Arrieta, John Lackey and Ben Zobrist will obviously free up some cash, but Quintana’s contract meets an important nexus of future payroll flexibility, remaining under the luxury tax and improving the near- and long-term roster.