I am going to admit, when I first received notification that the Cubs had traded Eloy Jimenez for Jose Quintana, I was livid. What upset me even more was to find that Dylan Cease, the Cubs’ most coveted pitching prospect was also on his way to the south side. Immediate flashbacks of the Matt Garza trade flooded my mind. Was this the guy that is going to put the Cubs over the top? Even if he is, why did they give up so much for him?
While the Cubs surrendered their top two prospects in the organization for 3½ years worth of Quintana, no one on the major-league roster was touched. That includes Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, and Javier Baez, among others. May I remind you that this same group of players (sans Happ) helped lead the Cubs to their first World Series championship in over 100 years merely eight months ago. In dealing Jimenez and Cease, the Cubs ensured themselves of more spectacular defensive plays by Javy, more scoreboard-topping home runs in the form of Schwarber, and perhaps most importantly, they kept a guy who can switch-hit, play middle infield, and hit for power, in Ian Happ. Theo Epstein is placing faith in his guys to turn it around offensively, something you have to admire in a front office executive. Recognizing that the Cubs were able to land one of baseball’s top arms without surrendering any major league talent is a win in my book.
I firmly believe that Eloy Jimenez is going to be an all-star at the major league level. However, I also thought the same thing about Jorge Soler. Eloy was tearing through the Carolina League as a 20-year-old but he still has a long way to go before he contributes to a major league roster, with most scouts projecting an ETA of 2019. Even if Jimenez were able to cruise through the minors, where would he play? Kyle Schwarber is in left field for the foreseeable future, and Jason Heyward isn’t going anywhere with his massive contract. And that brings me to Schwarber. If he could have netted the Cubs Quintana, he would have been gone yesterday. Alas, as it turns out, a .178 batting average and an OPS under .700 doesn’t necessarily help your trade value. Simply put, Kyle Schwarber could not have landed the Cubs an arm like Quintana. And that’s okay. A lot of Cubs fans (myself included), were calling for an MVP-type season from Schwarber this year. I still believe he’s capable of a putting up all-star numbers, even if it isn’t this season. Selling low on Schwarber would have been foolish. Instead, the Cubs get to hang on to Kyle and hope that he turns into a legitimate middle of the order bat for the Cubs, while also enjoying the success that Quintana will bring.
Losing Dylan Cease is also extremely tough to swallow. The 21-year-old fireballer was the Cubs top pitching prospect, spending this season to date in South Bend. Cease averaged an eye-popping 12.9 K/9 ratio, with a 2.79 ERA to boot. As many of you know, Cease was drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 MLB Draft, only three months removed from partially tearing his ulnar collateral ligament. After signing for a $1.5 million bonus, Cease hit the ground running in 2015. Cease doesn’t give up many hits, but he walks too many for a starting pitcher. Cease owns a 1.258 WHIP, mainly thanks to his 4.5 BB/9 rate. Cease is an intriguing prospect with his tripe-digit fastball, but his slender frame may push him to the bullpen once he gets to the major league level. After a first Tommy John Surgery, could Cease’s arm recover from another? Cease is obviously a couple years away from a big league rotation, and his arm is extremely volatile moving forward. A big loss for the Cubs indeed, but not as big as some might think.
Moving on to Quintana, it’s obvious that the Cubs just acquired their coveted cost-controlled starter. Quintana is owed just under $31 million for the next three years of his service, a contract that includes two team options, and will take him through his age-31 season. Not only will Quintana be incredibly cheap, he’ll also be under club control for the duration of his prime seasons. This payroll flexibility afforded to the Cubs in the coming years will be key to extending guys like Baez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, etc. Adding Quintana also guarantees the Cubs a very formidable top three in the rotation moving forward, after Jake Arrieta and John Lackey are set to depart this winter as free agents.
While his 4.49 ERA isn’t anything to write home about, Quintana sports a 2.70 ERA since the beginning of June. Furthermore, Quintana is just about as durable as pitchers come. He’s thrown four straight seasons of 200+ innings, owning an ERA of 3.36, a FIP of 3.35, and 18.2 fWAR during those four seasons. Quintana’s velocity is slightly better this year when compared to his career norms, a hopeful sign that Quintana will remain durable throughout the duration of his term with the Cubs. Quintana’s K/9 of 9.4 this season is the highest of his career, also an encouraging sign going forward. Quintana has suffered from increased BB/9 and HR/FB rates, but maybe Bosmosis can remedy these issues.
My favorite aspect about this trade is that it’s both a win now move, while also setting up the team for success in the future. Adding Quintana to a Cubs rotation that ranks 17th in the major leagues in terms of starter ERA will be a much needed shot in the arm to get the Cubs going in the second half. A playoff rotation of Lester, Quintana, Hendricks, and Arrieta can match up with any team in baseball, assuming the Cubs get there. Losing Eloy and Cease certainly stinks, but both were at least a couple years away from contributing at the major league level, and Quintana is the much needed arm that Cubs fans have been clamoring to acquire for years.