Who is Jose Quintana?
28 year old lefty Jose Quintana has quietly emerged as one of the better pitchers over the past four seasons. Over that span, he’s pitched an average of 200 innings per season with both his ERA and FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) hovering in the low to mid three’s (about 3.30 to be exact). Simply put, he’s been as consistent as they come. This is a good indicator that the success he’s enjoyed over that time is and probably will be sustainable thanks to a consistent strikeout rate accompanied by good control of the strike zone. Quintana doesn’t overpower hitters; his fastball lives in the low 90’s and will generally max out at 94 MPH, but his ability to induce weak contact thanks to superb command of the strike zone help him succeed despite lacking a true power fastball.
His Contract Situation
Quintana’s contract pays him just under $16,000,000 for the next two seasons, with an additional two club options (each worth $10,500,000). In essence, any team trading for Quintana would be receiving a quality starting pitcher for four seasons while paying him a total of $37,000,000 (an average value of $9,500,000 per season). Over the past four years, Quintana has provided the White Sox with a WAR of 4.5 per season. According to FanGraphs baseball, the value of an additional win in baseball is worth about $7,000,000 (this is an estimate) and would therefore mean that Jose Quintana was worth just over $30,000,000 per season over the past four seasons. Now, is that calculation perfect? Absolutely not, as WAR fails to take into account age, past seasons results, among other variables. But it is undeniable that Quintana has outperformed his contract over the last four seasons and given the White Sox a tremendous return on their investment.
This fact alone gives the White Sox tremendous leverage as they engage in trade talks for Quintana. Take into account these free agent pitcher contracts signed over the last few seasons:
Player Contract Length Contract Value WAR of Prev. 4 Seasons
Mike Leake ——————— 5 Years ——————- $75,000,000 ——————- 1.85 —————-
Wei Yin Chen —————— 5 Years ——————- $80,000,000 ——————- 2.50 —————-
Ian Kennedy ——————- 5 Years ——————- $70,000,000 ——————- 0.00 —————-
All these players earn, in average, approximately $15,000,000 per season over the length of their contracts. This in itself makes Jose Quintana THAT much more appealing to prospective teams, as his contract pays him just under $10,000,000 per season. Where’s the difference? Quintana is providing almost double the WAR value than the three players above for only 66% of the cost. Quintana also provides something essential that neither of the three pitchers above were able to include their resumes, and that’s health: Quintana has not missed a single start over the past four years, and over the course of a full season that is a huge trait to possess.
The free agent market has proven to consistently overvalue players worth, and rightfully so. A limited supply of pitchers and exuberant demand from all across the league has driven their earning power up, as teams constantly engage in “bidding wars” to acquire these players. Quintana presents a reliable, cost effective, and relatively young pitching option for a contending team who would prefer to acquire starting pitching through the trade market than free agency (always a smarter idea). While Quintana could very easily command $20,000,000 per season in free agency, his contract which only (“only”) pays him $10,000,000 per season presents an excellent alternative to the free agent market for interested teams, and this in turn, increases the potential return that his current team, the White Sox, could receive in a trade package.
What Does This Mean for the White Sox
It’s only a matter of time before the White Sox pull the trigger on a Quintana trade, but when they decide to pull that trigger will prove to be enormous in determining the package they receive in return. If the White Sox are to look at another young, controllable starting pitcher who was traded for a massive prospect overhaul, they can look at the Shelby Miller trade between the Braves and Diamondbacks. The trade was as followed:
Atlanta sends Shelby Miller and minor leaguer Gabe Speier to the Diamondbacks for Ender Inciarte, Aaron Blair, and #1 overall pick, Dansby Swanson.
Over his four major league seasons, Miller pitched an average of 180 innings per season with an ERA and FIP in the mid-three’s and gave his teams an average WAR of about 2.3 per season. While not quite at level of Quintana over the same time span, Miller production was just under that of Quintana. Miller however, in comparison to Quintana, relies much more on his power fastball to strikeout batters at the expense of allowing more walks, which has led to inconsistencies over his career (especially during the 2016 season).
This raises an important point. If the Braves were able to net a solid major leaguer in Ender Inciarte, a consensus top ten prospect in baseball in Dansby Swanson, and another quality prospect in Aaron Blair… what can the White Sox get for a better pitcher in Jose Quintana? If you still aren’t convinced, keep in mind that Quintana is 28 years old, entering the prime of his career while Miller was still 25 at the time of the trade, meaning his was still young and starting to find his true identity as a pitcher. In addition, Quintana relies of stuff rather than high velocities to pitch, which tends to translate better over the course of a long season.
When Will He Be Traded
Jose Quintana will get traded, but the White Sox should be wise to wait until the beginning of June to engage in serious conversations. Teams at the start of the season are not as anxious to acquire starting pitching as they would be later in the summer if they are in contention and a key piece away solidifying their rotation. The closer you get to the trade deadline, the higher the possible return on a trade. However, this comes with an added risk, as any type of injury to Quintana during the season would immediately affect his trade value and limit the magnitude of the possible return the White Sox could get. Despite Quintana staying relatively healthy over the course of his career, pitcher’s and their elbows are unpredictable (as of now), so the White Sox would be wise to limit his stressful innings the first few months of the season to diminish the chance of a possible injury. With this being said, look for Quintana to be moved in the early days of June, or earlier if a contending team loses an important starting pitcher to injury or poor performance. I would be shocked to see Quintana still pitching for the White Sox in July given the always present possibility of an injury or dip in performance (although statistics suggest the latter is not possible).
The Important Question: Who Gets The Prize of the 2017 Trade Season?
Given Shelby Miller’s value when traded, the value of Quintana’s contract, and the consistency he’s shown over the past four seasons, expect a Quintana return to be centered around at least two top prospects, one viable major league piece, and perhaps another lower level prospect. It’s a high price to pay, but justified by all the previously mentioned variables. This is also eliminates various teams who simply can’t and won’t be able to meet the White Sox’s demands. Therefore, there are THREE teams who should be in the thick of the race for Quintana’s services, and also included are the prospects who they could include to increase the likelihood of a deal being completed.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Quintana provides a healthy, affordable starting pitcher, which aside from Clayton Kershaw, is something they haven’t had the luxury of having in years. As seen in 2016, their rotation features aging veterans who can still pitch at a high level but have serious injury concerns attached to them. A package for Quintana would need to be centered around 1B/OF prospect Cody Bellinger (#7 overall prospect) or talented lefty Julio Urias. It is unlikely the White Sox can get both pieces in a trade, but at least one of them would be necessary to begin trade conversations. The wild card that the Dodgers hold that could truly seal the deal is Yasiel Puig, who could immediately slot in the White Sox center field and get the fresh start he needs. This trade will be contingent on the Dodger’s rotation and their health, if the pieces start to fall fast as they did in 2016, look for the Dodgers to pull a quick trigger on a Quintana trade.
Houston Astros – The Houston Astros actually have a decent amount of starting pitching depth, but a trade for Quintana will largely depend on the performance of 2015 CY Young Award Winner Dallas Keuchel. If Keuchel is unable to regain his 2015 form, look for the Astros to increase their pursuit for Quintana to pitch at the top of their rotation. The Astros have two extremely talented prospects in Francis Martes (#29 overall) and Derek Fisher (#84 overall). While they are still not quite major league ready, both of them could eventually make their debuts at some point during the 2017 season. Martes features a 100 MPH fastball which he mixes with outstanding command while Fisher has the makings of a 20/20 hitter in the majors given his impressive speed and quick bat speed, which has led to increased home run numbers over the past seasons in the minors. Also in consideration in a Quintana trade could also be Alex Bregman and A.J. Reed, who made their major league debuts last summer and showed flashes of brilliance that originally made them top prospects in baseball as well. While the Astros don’t have the immediate impact pieces that the Dodgers have, they have are larger variety of prospects which could help diversify a possible package to acquire Jose Quintana.
New York Yankees – The Yankees have something the White Sox need, and those are outfield prospects. The Chris Sale and Adam Eaton trades brought back excellent pitching prospects and one of the top infield prospects in baseball in Yoan Moncada, but has left the White Sox with a bit of an outfield problem. Enter the Yankees, who feature two top 100 outfield prospects in Clint Frazier (#15 overall, acquired from the Indians in the Andrew Miller trade) and Blake Rutherford (#51 overall), both making noise in the minor leagues for impressive power numbers and bat speeds. The Yankees could also deal middle infielder Jorge Mateo (#18 overall) who could have his path to the majors blocked by Yankees uber prospect, Gleyber Torres (#16 overall). Having expendable pieces may increase the Yankees propensity to deal from the farm to strengthen their starting rotation. A player like Aaron Judge could also be of interest to the White Sox, although his struggles in the major leagues have somewhat diminished his prospect value. Nonetheless, look for a Yankees trade package to be centered around one, if not two outfield prospects in the Yankees organization.
Injuries, Ineffectiveness, and Desperation Will Take Quintana to Los Angeles
The Dodgers have grown used to reaching the postseason, but have lacked that additional piece to reach the World Series. Jose Quintana is that piece. The Dodgers are overflowed in prospects, which increases their willingness to deal from a deep farm system to acquire Quintana, and his $10,000,000 per year contract salary would keep them under the luxury tax, something which the Dodgers’ brass has made a priority moving forward. When healthy, the Dodgers rotation is among the best in the game, but inevitable injuries to their veteran starters will force their hand in the summer to pull off a blockbuster trade with the White Sox. If all else is unpredictable, look for Yasiel Puig to conclude his 2017 season as part of a young exciting core in the south side of Chicago alongside Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, and Jose Abreu.