As the MLB All Star break comes to a close and the league’s haves and have nots determine whether they’ll be buyers or sellers in the trade market, the rumor mill has been churning out a number of possibilities for several teams and players. The Royals are in danger of losing a number of their core players to free agency as the contracts end for the likes of Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas following this season. The Marlins have had discussions regarding the availability of Dee Gordon, the Tigers are shopping Justin Verlander and while the Mariners say they’re not dealing Nelson Cruz, you have to believe that, for the right price, they may be willing to avoid paying him the $14.5M they owe him for 2018, the final year of the four-year deal he signed back in 2014.
While those teams continue to stay in the realm of rumor and speculation, the White Sox, home of one of the most-anticipated fire sales, have already begun theirs as they send left-handed starter Jose Quintana to the Cubs for highly-regarded outfielder Eloy Jimenez, first baseman Matt Rose, infielder Bryant Flete and right-hander Dylan Cease, who was rated the Cubs. No. 2 prospect by Baseball America. The White Sox continue to replenish their now very tasty farm system and the Cubs immediately solidify their starting rotation with an outstanding left-hander.
While the fans of both Chicago clubs can debate the merits of this blockbuster crosstown deal for each of their teams, we need to take a look here from the fantasy perspective. Right off the bat, this is a big win for Quintana owners. While his surface numbers – 4.49 ERA with a 1.32 WHIP – don’t seem all that appealing, there is plenty to love about his move to the National League.
Entering this season, there were definitely high hopes for Quintana which failed to materialize. He got beaten up pretty badly to open the year and while he had a few starts to help rectify the ratio-damage done, another few setbacks continued to frustrate his owners. There wasn’t any talk of mechanical issues or tip-pitching, so either he just wasn’t as good as everyone thought or maybe the continuous rumors of where he would be pitching by season’s end were upsetting a guy who sometimes let his emotions get the better of him on the mound. The latter seemed more the case as Quintana finally righted the ship come June and over his last seven starts, never allowed more than three runs in a game with just one hiccup – three runs allowed in just 4.1 innings in hitter-friendly Cincinnati. Over that span he posted a 2.70 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP and 10.13 K/9.
Even better for Quintana and his owners was the increase in his strikeout rate from June 1 and on. He posted a 25-percent K-rate for the month of June and fanned 15 batters over 9.2 innings in July. The move to the National League, where he will face a pitcher instead of designated hitter, should bring about an even tastier increase and his already solid 9.40 K/9 could spike even more. The walk rate is still a little meh and he does pitch to a fair amount of contact, but as a left-hander in Wrigley, the line down left field is a little friendlier than it was at Guaranteed Rate Stadium and perhaps that, coupled with no DH and the excitement of pitching for a contender, will help him challenge hitters more from the onset and not worry so much about nibbling the corners.
We’ll also do a little more research to discuss how AL pitchers fare with a move to the National League, but for the most part, and we can look at a number of starters such as Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, John Lackey, Ivan Nova and even Francisco Liriano, who have trended in a much more positive direction with the move.
As for the prospects coming back to the White Sox, the two key names are Jimenez and Cease. Neither are expected to make any sort of a fantasy impact this season as Jimenez, a top power prospect is still learning the ropes down at the High-A level while Cease, who so far has shown outstanding strikeout potential, hasn’t pitched past the Low-A level. Both are considered must-owns in dynasty leagues right now and both could open the year in 2018 at the Double-A level. How they accelerate through the system beyond that will obviously be performance-based.