By Joe Sparacio
On Thursday, the Cubs and the White Sox made a trade for the first time since November 2006, when the Sox shipped left-handed reliever Neal Cotts north in exchange for David Ardsma and Minor League pitcher Carlos Vasquez. This deal is a mighty bit bigger. The Cubs acquired Jose Quintana, and gave up some solid prospects in return.
Initially, this looks like a win for both sides. The White Sox's biggest prize in the swap was Eloy Jimenez, who was the No. 1 prospect in the Cubs' system, according to MLB.com. The 20-year-old outfielder has been in Class-A Myrtle Beach for the duration of the season thus far and was selected to play in the All-Star Future's Game this past Sunday. He has eight home runs and 32 RBIs in 42 games this season, but more importantly, he can do devastating things at the plate … like break stadium lights.
Dylan Cease is the other big prize for the Sox, the No. 2 prospect in the Cubs' system and a right-handed hurler currently also in A-ball. He's on a pitch limit this season as he builds arm strength, but the hurler shows a ton of promise, posting a 2.79 ERA in 13 starts to go with 74 strikeouts. Along with Cease, the South Siders get two lottery tickets in 18-year-old pitcher Jose Albertos and third baseman Vimael Machin.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Cubs get one of the best pitchers on the market to shore up their rotation, and he's signed through the 2020 season at a bargain price. Quintana was an All-Star and a AL Cy Young Award contender last season, and boasts a career 3.51 ERA over six seasons. The southpaw struggled out of the gate to begin the year, but has turned it around heading into the All-Star break, and looks once again like his normal, reliable self.
José Quintana This Season- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 13, 2017
First 13 Starts Since
ERA 5.30 2.43
Team W-L 5-8 5-0
To put things in perspective, Quintana had as many quality starts last season (23) as Chris Sale, and more than guys like Noah Syndergaard and David Price. This isn't an anomaly; he's ranked among the top 10 in quality starts since the start of the 2014 season, alongside the league's best aces. This should help the Cubs' rotation, which has posted a disappointing collective 4.10 ERA this season.
This is hopefully the piece that can help the Cubs regain a foothold atop the NL Central and propel them back to the World Series. For the White Sox, this signals that the franchise is fully diving into its rebuilding phase. They add Jimenez and Cease to their stable of top prospects, including the No. 1 prospect in the game in Yoan Moncada, and now have seven of MLB.com's top-100 prospects.
Things are looking up in the Windy City.
* * *
Joe Sparacio is an associate producer for Sports on Earth. Follow him on Twitter @joetsparacio.