Thursday, July 20, 2017

Crosstown Commentary: “Q”uite the Trade

Wait… how did I get here? All these references to black and white, south not north, something about a rate that’s guaranteed not chewing gum?  Allow me to introduce myself: you can call me Chris the Curmudgeon Cubs Fan (or just Chris.)  I’m being allowed to contribute to Disco Demolished as a North-Side supporter (gasp!) because I like baseball.  And I love Chicago.  And the founder of this blog is a longtime friend of mine.  So here goes!

Fortunately for all of us, the two Chi-town teams gave me a great lead-off as a contributor to this blog with a certain trade that happened exactly one week ago.  A deal that many thought would never happen because of the societal implications on our fair city was announced early Thursday morning July 13th—and I swear I could hear “Kumbaya” mixed with “Why Can’t We Be Friends” ringing through the streets.  The White Sox traded Jose Quintana to the Cubs for prospects Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease and two others.

But you knew that already.  Maybe as a Sox fan you even turned on the Cubs game this past Sunday just to see Q deal one more time before fully moving on.  (It was quite the first performance, I must say: 7 IP, 0 R, 3 H with 12 Ks- a Cubs’ debut record.  His curveball was simply nasty.)  However, amidst the rebuild I’m sure many fans saw Quintana’s departure coming.  So perhaps you weren’t as sad as you’d normally be about losing a player of his caliber.  His landing spot being the team across town?  That might make you kick some dirt in protest…

Never fear, though!  Let this Cubs fan tell you what you’re getting in return.  Eloy Jimenez—the headliner of the deal—is projected to be an absolute stud.   Many major league comparisons have been drawn between him and Giancarlo Stanton.  His power is just that pure.  Reserve the left corner outfield spot for him in about 1-2 years (as he still sits in low AA ball) and trust that with a bit more development, the #14 overall prospect in 2016 will flourish into a great player.  Additionally, Dylan Cease will be joining the Sox.  He came in at #97 in last year’s prospect rankings and his stuff was also highly touted as legitimate.  A great slider and a plus fastball for starters, he had time and baseball IQ on his side to develop a third pitch and be a starter one day. (Once again—not for a while.  Cease was even lower in the minors than Jimenez: high-A.) 

The Cubs had the luxury of being patient with these two prospects having stacked their farm system with plenty of other talented players after several years of terrible baseball gained them many top-10 draft slots.  But Cubs fans knew they were coming and were excited for their time to come.  That’s why, when I heard the news that BOTH Jimenez and Cease would be traded for a viable #2 starter, I was slightly disappointed.  Sure, I knew what we would be getting with Quintana and was quite pleased with that for several reasons: addressed a need this year, controlled and at a bargain price for his stature.  And that’s the sign of a good—or should I say fair—trade.  Both sides should feel it yet be optimistic about the future. 

Theo Epstein—I’ve been told by non-Cubs fans—has gained a reputation for allegedly “ripping other GMs off.”  I don’t think that’s the case here- Cubs gain for the now, Sox gain for the later. I’ll concede the Addison Russell acquisition for Jason Hammel.  But getting Arrieta and Strop for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger was a move of taking players the Orioles had essentially given up on for players that were having good seasons on a terrible team by May of 2013.  That’s just taking advantage of opportunity and scouting.  Once they let Arrieta pitch like he wanted to- which they saw a mile away- he turned out to be great.  Sabermetrics.  Boom.  Should be what happens here with Quintana, though he did pitch like he wanted to- the run support was another issue.

Turns out Rick Hahn is taking a page out of Theo’s book.  He is doing a great job of getting the best packages for his best players and restocking the minors for a healthy longevity of his team.  It worked for the Cubs and Astros. Now many other teams are realizing it’s the way things have to be done.  (It’s also true that this was always the case and that trying to get around that approach doesn’t work.) And in turn, as evidenced by this crosstown trade, it allows a club to flip prospects for major-league proven commodities.  Especially pitching, which is always a gamble for every team coming up through the minors.  My guess is after the Cubs drafted Brandon Little and Alex Lange (LSU starting staff headliner from the College World Series), they felt they could make them their pitching projects of the future and deal Cease. 

The fact remains that Cease was probably best starting prospect that Cubs had and when you want to acquire a starter from another team, they will want pitching in return (at least.)  This trade was necessary for the Cubs with Arrieta almost assuredly gone in the offseason.  Scott Boras is going to demand way too much for a guy who’s pitched his arm off helping the Cubs win a lot of playoff baseball the past two years and as I said- there’s not much pitching in line for the Cubs in the minors (my one knock on Theo and his work so far in Chicago.  I think I’ll get over it…)  But make no mistake; the White Sox now have plenty of arms and position players to make them serious contenders in a few years and that is great for baseball and the city.  So… you’re welcome.  And thanks for Q. 

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