There are many great traditions that Cubs fans have. Flying the W flag after wins. Throwing opponents’ home runs back onto the field. Checking out each other’s dongs at the troughs.1 And overvaluing prospects they’ve never seen play.
Granted, the last one has been reinforced by the steady stream of really good young players who have arrived on the North Side over the past few seasons. So, it hurt when the Cubs traded shortstop Gleyber Torres to the Yankees last year for three months of Aroldis Chapman. But it hurt a lot less when Aroldis was a crucial part of the Cubs World Series championship team.
Today, the Cubs sent another top prospect, Eloy Jimenez to the White Sox of all teams, for starter Jose Quintana.
To put it mildly, Cubs fans lost their shit. HOW COULD YOU TRADE ELOY? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? DON’T YOU WANT TO WIN? Most of them have never seen Eloy play, and if the Cubs miss the playoffs they’ll be the same ones accusing Theo and Jed of “not doing anything.”
The fact, of course, is that Quintana is an excellent pitcher, with a long, and incredibly attractive contract. He’ll average about $10 million the next three years.
Jimenez could very well be a stud. He’s big, he’s got excellent power and at 20, he’s doing the things in class A that bode well for him as he progresses through the minors. Dylan Cease, is another top 100 prospect who went from the Cubs to the Sox in the deal, and he projects as a top half of the rotation starter. But he’s also in Class A, and who the fuck ever knows about young pitchers. Injuries get lots of them.
The fact is that the Cubs aren’t exactly short of guys who can play the outfield, so while it didn’t make Eloy expendable, it was a matter of them trading from an area of strength.
To some extent this was a choice between Kyle Schwarber and Eloy. The Cubs still view Schwarber as an elite bat, and he’s obviously limited to left field. Jason Heyward is signed for like 40 years, and the options in his deal are his and not the team’s so he’s going to be there a while. Ian Happ looks like the real thing and he’s got to play someplace, and that place is hopefully not a lot of second base.
It’s easy to be down on Schwarber. I mean his .178/.300/.394 slash line is hideous. But, he also missed the entire season last year, and if we hadn’t been deluded by his incredible World Series performance we’d have braced ourselves for him to struggle for a while. Maybe not this much, but significantly, nonetheless.
You might be in the camp that has decided that Schwarber will never be an elite hitter, and I can understand that. I can understand it because I know there are a lot of dumb people in the world. Kyle’s going to hit. So doubt him if you want, but know that it makes you a sad little ingrate. The guy tore his knee into pieces last year, busted his ass to get back and the Cubs would not have won the World Series last year without him. That’s indisputable. I hope you enjoy your eternity in Hell.
But what about Jose Quintana? I mean, the guy has a career record of 50-54. Boo! That’s awful. He sucks. WHY CAN’T THEO EVER MAKE GOOD TRADES?
Of course, the reality is that Quintana has been one of the best pitchers in baseball the last five years. He’s averaged more than 200 innings a season, fewer hits than innings pitched, and 700 strikeouts to only 202 walks. His ERA+ for those seasons is 119, and he’s done it in a hitter’s park and with a consistently awful White Sox defense behind him. He got off to a lousy start this year, in part, according to Sox pitching coach for life Don Cooper, because the new “juiced” baseball has lower seams than the old one and it took Jose some time to adjust to it. He made five starts in June with a 1.78 ERA and 21 hits allowed in 30 innings. A move to the National League with its commitment to real baseball and no designated hitter, and put the Cubs infield behind him, and, well…profit.
Another great thing about this trade is that the Cubs were resigned to having to pay buku bucks this offseason for two starters to replace Jake Arrieta, who is going to get waaaaay too much money from some other team, and John Lackey, who didn’t come here for a haircut–or to get anybody out in his second season with the team. But with one of those slots filled now by Quintana, they can approach it differently. Maybe they trade for an expensive, established starter. Maybe they use the extra cash to re-sign Wade Davis. Maybe Tom Ricketts gets naked and rolls around in the $15 million he saved by getting Quintana. I really don’t want to think about that anymore.
This is the proverbial trade that helps both teams. The Cubs stockpiled hitters because they’re more accurately projectable than prospect pitchers, and because they were always going to use the surplus to trade for proven starters. The White Sox are rebuilding and turned a good, controllable starter into two top prospects.
The irony is that we should have been clamoring for Quintana all along. The Cubs have been looking for a proven starter with years of control left and Jose was the best one on the market. But we all assumed the White Sox wouldn’t trade him to the Cubs, because Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams wouldn’t dare do anything that might help the other team in Chicago. But one of the many benefits of winning the World Series last year is that this trade won’t have the stigma of of the Sox helping the Cubs end their lovable loserness, because that ended last year, much to their eternal dismay.
The Cubs championship window has been kicked wide open, and to add to their current World Championship they need to upgrade their starting pitching. This deal does that, and not just for the rest of this year but for next year and the year after and the year after. From an asset management standpoint it makes perfect sense. The Cubs are at the stage where parades are better than prospects.
Besides, even though Eloy Jimenez has literal light tower power, the light towers at Wrigley are all in foul territory, so what good would that have done them?
No better starting pitcher will be traded this month than Jose Quintana. He’s a Cub now. That’s a really good thing.