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Chicago Shuffle: Quintana for Jimenez, Cease

The Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox made a rare cross-town deal Thursday, with the Sox sending lefty starter José Quintana for minor league standouts Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease, and two additional prospects.

At least one player involved in the deal will not have to pack his bags, but he may have a longer commute to work.

Due to the timing of the trade, Quintana will miss out on an historic opportunity to suit up for two different clubs in two different leagues, in the same city, in the same week.

Excuse me? How’s that…

Well, the swap happened with the four inter-league games between the Cubs and Sox – the annual Crosstown Classic – just ten days away. Two two-game sets played back-to-back starting July 24th. Just imagine this: Had Cubs President Theo Epstein and his counterpart Rick Hahn waited until, say, July 25th to consummate the deal, Quintana could suit up for the White Sox at Wrigley Field on a Monday and Tuesday, then wear the road uniform for the Cubs on a Wednesday and Thursday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Historic, right? A cross-town deal in mid-series would make a nice gimmick, but as a starting pitcher it would have been extremely unlikely that Quintana would get into games for both teams. Then again, with Joe Maddon helming the Cubs you never know he he might use a pitcher…

Enough giddiness. We digress. This is no time for additional stunts within the already gimmicky Crosstown Classic; rather, it is the season for hard-nosed front office maneuvers. The Cubs needed starting pitching. The White Sox needed to accelerate their rebuild. Both sides obtained what they were after. Though the Major League trade deadline is 17 days away, each trade that will be made around the league in coming weeks narrows the choices available to general managers. So Epstein and Hahn acted with dispatch, and they even got the drop on the media on this one. No hours turning into days of inane messages about “sources” saying the Cubs and Sox were close to a deal. They pulled off a four-for-one, five-player swap with nary a leak to the press.

Jose Quintana is an established talent. Twenty-eight years old, the southpaw has posted a 50-54 record with a 3.51 Earned Run Average, accumulating 890 strikeouts, and 284 walks in 1,055.1 innings pitched during his six-season Major League career. An All-Star for the first time in 2016, this season he is 4-8 with a 4.49 ERA in 104.1 innings pitched for the last-place ChiSox. Quintana’s pre-season started in spectacular fashion with a memorable performance in the World Baseball Classic for his native Colombia. Clearly the Cubs front office believes that Quintana’s 2017 stats are not representative and he will soon return to his excellent 2014-2016 form.

The reality is that the Cubs need pitching, both to spur the team in the sluggish 2017 Central Division race – only the Milwaukee Brewers are over .500 at the All-Star Break – and to patch future holes in the starting rotation left by the probable departures of John Lackey and Jake Arrieta. Both veterans become free agents in the post-season.

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty

Eloy Jimenez is a first-rate minor league prospect. Baseball Prospectus ranked the right-handed batting, right-handed throwing outfielder ninth and Baseball America tabbed Jimenez as the fourteenth-ranked prospect at the top of the 2017 season. The Cubs signed him out of the Dominican Republic at the age of 17 in 2014. Jimenez has played this year with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in the High A Carolina League. There he batted .271 with a .841 On-base Plus Slugging (OPS). In 42 games he has homered eight times and pushed in 32 runs. Only 20 years old, the six-foot four, 205 pound Jimenez features a whole field approach to power-hitting that should translate to loads of extra base hits.

Not to be overlooked is the Cubs number two system prospect Dylan Cease, a promising right-handed pitcher drafted out of high school by the Cubs in the 2014 Amateur Draft. Cease has compiled a solid 2.79 ERA for the South Bend Cubs in the Low A Midwest League so far this season. The 21 year-old fireballer has fanned nearly 13 batters per nine innings in just over 50 innings pitched. Though he has walked his share (26, none intentional), he has limited opponents to a measly 6.8 hits per nine innings pitched. He is a talent the White Sox can develop over several seasons, and he may join some other live arms coming up around the same time, such as Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, and Reynaldo Lopez. Rick Hahn has bolstered his extended pitching depth chart by adding Cease to the deal.

Photo by Mathew Carper

Also included in the swap: The White Sox receive corner infielder Matt Rose and infielder-outfielder Bryant Flete. Rose hit .227 with 14 home runs and 38 RBI at Myrtle Beach this season. Flete, his teammate, is batting at a .305 clip with six round-trippers and 30 RBI. As in all one-for-many deals like this one, the White Sox are hedging against the risk that any one player will be a flash-in-the-pan or fall victim to injuries and unforeseen circumstances. The Cubs are going all-in with Quintana.

A good trade is one that benefits both teams, not one in which one team “fleeces” the other. This is a win-win.

See you at the Crosstown Classic soon, and the Subway Series later.



Tim is a lifelong baseball (especially Cubs) fan, member of SABR, and player of Out of the Park Baseball. Recently he caught the genealogy bug and is researching his family history. He is originally from Chicago, but now lives in Columbia, MO, with his wife, two daughters, and two dogs.

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