Last season, the Cubs had one of the best rotations in baseball. Their starters combined for a 2.96 ERA, the best in baseball and Jake Arrieta won the NL Cy Young Award. Their stud pitching staff was a key factor in the team winning the World Series, their first since 1908.
Despite bringing back most of the rotation this year, the starting rotation hasn’t fared as well in 2017, with the ERA dropping to 4.60. Because of this, a change was needed and the Cubs did something that hasn’t happened in 11 years – they made a trade with crosstown rival White Sox.
Today marks the first midseason blockbuster trade of 2017 as the Cubs agree to send prospects Eloy Jimenez (MLB.com’s No. 8 overall prospect), Dylan Cease (No. 63), Matt Rose and Bryant Flete. This is just the 15th trade ever completed between these two teams and first since 2006.
The Cubs, however, are paying a huge price for Quintana and realistically, it’s the only major trade piece they can acquire and I don’t see him as enough for the Cubs to get over the hump. The Cubs are currently 5.5 games back in then NL Central and 7.5 games back in the Wild Card race.
Quintana is having his worst year as a pro, going 4-8 with a 4.49 ERA, though he does have a healthy 9.40 strikeouts per nine innings and has been more effective as of late, owning a 2.70 ERA in his last 40 innings pitched. Moving to the National League should help improve his numbers. Quintana has oddly lost a pitch over the past three years as well and he began to throw his cutter less and less. He hasn’t thrown a cutter at all in 2017. Instead, he has relied more on his sinker and curve. The results haven’t been great, he’s surrendered 14 home runs (13 to righties), at a clip of 1.21 per nine innings, the worst in his career. Additionally he is walking 3.45 batters per nine innings and stranding just 70.6 percent of baserunners after leaving 79 percent a year ago.
But the problem is that there just isn’t a pitcher who is available in this market who is as talented as years before, when we saw deadline deals for David Price and Cole Hamels. Quintana is controllable until 2020 for less than $35 million and is the best pitcher available in the market, meaning they could command a high price. The White Sox have built for tomorrow by trading off their three biggest assets, Quintana, Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, bringing in Yoan Moncada (MLB.com’s No. 1 overall prospect), Jimenez, Michael Kopech (No. 11), Lucas Giolito (No. 28), Reynaldo Lopez (No. 36) and Cease. The White Sox now have arguably the best farm system in baseball.
For the Cubs, though, this is it for them. They used their last trade chip to acquire a guy who isn’t the difference maker they needed. They didn’t get someone who can help them score runs (where they rank 20th) or address their fielding issues, where they are in the bottom of the league in both fielding percentage and errors committed. This trade doesn’t bring in a center or right fielder that the team needs. Their only prospect of note now is corner infielder Jeimer Candelario, who is the No. 81 prospect in baseball and isn’t enough to bring in any one of note if the Cubs needed it.
A year ago, the Cubs were 53-35 and had legitimate World Series aspirations, which justified surrendering Gleyber Torres in a deal for Aroldis Chapman, but this year, the Cubs aren’t in the same shape. Chicago shouldn’t be giving up their farm in the team’s current state.