The Cubs sent four minor leaguers to the White Sox in exchange for Jose Quintana and two of the four are the top two prospects in the Cubs system. It’s a high price, but not an unreasonable one for a former All-Star pitcher with three-and-a-half years of under-market control.
The biggest name here is Dominican outfielder Eloy Jimenez, who was the top international prospect in 2013. The Cubs broke the bank for him and the also-departed Gleyber Torres that season, with Jimenez getting the biggest bonus of $2.8 million.
Jimenez, like Torres, quickly proved to be worth the investment. Jimenez was big and already filled-out at 17, checking in at 6’4” and weighing over 200 pounds. Many of us at the time compared Jimenez to Jorge Soler, who was then one of the top prospects in the game.
After struggling a big as a 17-year-old in the Arizona complex league, Jimenez made his short-season debut with Eugene in 2015 at age 18. He thrived in the Northwest League, hitting .284 with 7 home runs and a .328 on-base percentage. He was named the third-best prospect in the Northwest League that year. It should also be noted that he impressed people by being personable and intelligent. He learned English quickly and finished his high school degree in the Dominican Republic.
It was in the Midwest League last year that Jimenez broke out. While Jimenez had light-tower power (more on that in a minute), he also proved that he could be a good all-around hitter who was able to go to all fields. He hit .329 with 14 home runs and an incredible 40 doubles in 432 at bats in South Bend. He was the named the MVP of the Midwest League and top prospect by the league and the number two prospect by Baseball America.
He also played in his first Futures Game in San Diego last season and he hit a tremendous home run at Petco Park off Ryne Stanek. Jimenez also made an incredible catch over the wall in foul territory in right field.
This season, Jimenez missed the month of April with a bone bruise in his right shoulder, suffered in Spring Training. Since that time, Jimenez has hit .271 with eight home runs and a .351 OBP in 42 games in the pitching-friendly Carolina League. He also broke a light on the light tower in left field during the Home Run Derby at the Carolina League All-Star Game. The video of that incident went viral. Jimenez later broke another outfield light at a different ballpark in batting practice at a different stadium. When we say Jimenez has “light-tower power,” we mean that literally.
Here’s what his new team said.
*Frantically buying nets to put in front of our light poles* https://t.co/bEvKaeUWKf— Winston-Salem Dash (@WSDashBaseball) July 13, 2017
In their most recent mid-season updates, Baseball America ranked Jimenez as the fifth-best prospect in baseball and MLB Pipeline had him eighth.
I think Jimenez is going to be a star. Obviously a lot can go wrong between the Carolina League and the majors, but Jimenez has everything he needs to be a major league All-Star. The White Sox got a great one who should be a corner outfielder for them for years to come.
The other big name in the deal was RHP Dylan Cease. Cease was a player who was projected as a first-round pick out of high school in Georgia in 2014. He fell after it was revealed that he needed Tommy John surgery and the Cubs got him in the sixth round and signed him for a massive over slot $1.5 million bonus, which is about what he would have gotten at the end of the first round or beginning of the second.
Since then, Cease has slowly been returning from his surgery. The Cubs have babied him until this season and to be honest, the training wheels still aren’t off. But when Cease does take the mound, he has a fastball that can hit 100 mph and regularly sits in the 94-97 range. Cease also has a filthy curve ball that might be an even better pitch. He has made 13 starts for South Bend this summer and has a 2.79 ERA with 74 strikeouts and 26 walks over 51⅔ innings. He was ranked 83rd on Baseball America’s recent Top 100 midseason prospects update.
With two plus pitches, Cease has the potential to be a top of the rotation starter. But unlike Jimenez, for whom a lot would have to go wrong for him not to be a star, there are still a lot of question marks about Cease. His health will always be a concern with one Tommy John surgery before his 19th birthday. He struggles to find the plate at times and his third pitch, a changeup, is just not that good at the moment.
Cease could end up as a top of the rotation starter, but he could struggle to find his control and end up more as a number 3. Or that changeup could never get better and he could find himself as a reliever, albeit a lights-out closer who nails down 40 saves a season. Finally, Cease could get injured again and never make it out of the minors. There is a wide range of possibilities for Cease, but it a gamble that the White Sox were smart to take. But for the Cubs, 3½ seasons of Quintana are easily worth more than Cease.
Infielder Bryant Flete was an international sign out of Venezuela in 2012 and he’s already 24 years old. He was never considered much of a prospect before this season as he’s broken out with a .305/.355/.425 line with six home runs in 70 games. However, he is older than most players in the Carolina League and he is repeating the level. If the gains in offense are real, then Flete has a chance to be a major league utility player, although he’s probably better suited to second base than shortstop or third.
First baseman Matt Rose was an 11th-round pick out of Georgia State in 2015. He’s shown tremendous power in the minors with 13 home runs in 281 at-bats in South Bend last season and 14 in just 233 at-bats already this season in Myrtle Beach. But he’s struggled to hit for average and he doesn’t walk a lot. He has a career minor league batting average of .241 and an OBP of .304. This season is even worse with a .227 average and a .281 OBP. For the White Sox, they have to hope that Rose continues to hit home runs and hit for enough average to become something like Justin Bour, although I think Bour was a better hitter at that level than Rose is. He’s a throw-in, albeit not one without some value.
So the price for Quintana was indeed high. But when you compare what the Cubs gave up for a rental reliever in Aroldis Chapman last season, it seems like a good deal by Theo and Co. Yes, the White Sox got more for Quintana than the Yankees got, but not by that much. And Quintana will be around through 2020, unlike Chapman who was a two-month rental.
It hurts to say goodbye to Jimenez and Cease, but that’s the price of doing business.