One of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ NL Central rivals addressed their biggest need. How will this affect the division in the short and long term?
The Chicago Cubs have agreed to a trade with the Chicago White Sox in which they acquired starting pitcher Jose Quintana. In return, the White Sox received a package of prospects including OF Eloy Jimenez, RHP Dylan Cease, 1B Matt Rose, and INF Bryant Flete.
Jimenez and Cease were the Cubs’ top two prospects. According to Baseball America, Jimenez is ranked as the fifth best prospect in baseball. Quintana, on the other hand, is 4-8 this season with a 4.49 ERA. He has 109 strikeouts and 40 walks in 104.1 innings pitched. He is struggling this year but has always been consistent in the past. That, paired with the fact that he has a favorable contract for years to come, made him a valuable asset. So what does this trade mean for the Cubs?
Short term impact
This trade absolutely helps the Cubs in the short term. Quintana hasn’t been his best this year but some of his shortcomings could be attributed to the fact that he’s been on the trading block all season. It’s hard to stay 100 percent focused when you don’t know what your future holds. That weight has now been lifted. Quintana also may find easier success in the lighter hitting National League.
The Cubs needed starting pitching help. Jake Arrieta isn’t nearly the pitcher he was two years ago. He’s not even the pitcher he was last year. Jon Lester is getting older and has struggled this year as well. Those two have a 4.35 and 4.25 ERA respectively. Kyle Hendricks has fought off injuries all season but hasn’t been the pitcher he was last year when he does pitch. John Lackey is awful. Quintana makes the Cubs better this year.
Will this trade be enough to help them win the division? We will have to find out. If Quintana doesn’t pitch better than he has this season, I don’t think it does. On the other hand, this acquisition might flip the switch that awakes the sleeping giant that is the Cubs. For the Pirates sake, I would still rather have a top three of Nova/Cole/Taillon than Lester/Arrieta/Quintana. The Pirates will have the best starting rotation in the NL Central if everyone can stay healthy in the second half.
Long term impact
The Cubs gave up a lot to get Quintana. Some have compared the power of Jimenez to the power of Giancarlo Stanton. Cease was the best pitcher in the Cubs’ system. The other two guys were throw ins. As we know, prospects are no guarantee. The Cubs have a plethora of young position players so they can afford to trade some of those players. The Cubs do not have a lot of starting pitching. In fact, their starting pitching is pretty thin.
With no up and coming pitching studs in their farm system, the Cubs have what they have. Lester has three more guaranteed years in his contract and isn’t getting any younger. Arrieta is a free agent at the end of the year and will most likely not be worth trying to re-sign. Hendricks will be set for arbitration next year. Quintana helps because he is controllable for the next three years after this year but the Cubs have real issues in their starting rotation.
Sure they can always sign someone via free agency. They have money. The only big time starting pitcher free agents in 2018 will be Yu Darvish and maybe Johnny Cueto if he opts out of his current deal. Japanese phenom Shohei Otani could be an option as well. If the Cubs fail to sign any of those players, they will be in serious trouble. The Cubs may very well walk into next season with a rotation of Lester, Quintana, Hendricks, and a backend of whatever.
What about the Pittsburgh Pirates
Let’s all take a moment to be thankful for the pitching depth of the Pittsburgh Pirates. I know it may be hard for a lot of you to compliment the Pirates on anything, but let’s give credit where credit is due. The Pirates have done an excellent job of stockpiling young, controllable starting pitching.
Gerrit Cole is underachieving but extremely talented nonetheless. Ivan Nova has taken the role of veteran leader who can still deal. Jameson Taillon looks like a budding star. Trevor Williams looks like a dependable starter who’s only getting better. Chad Kuhl, though inconsistent at times, has great stuff. He’s a changeup away from being very good. Tyler Glasnow has plenty of time to figure it out and has great stuff. He still has a chance to be the best of this group. Steven Brault is the best pitcher in AAA. Drew Hutchinson is a forgotten man who is putting up solid numbers in AAA. I haven’t even mentioned Nick Kingham, Mitch Keller, Luis Escobar the list goes on and on.
The depth is real and there’s no denying that. They are all young. In a year or two, it will be extremely difficult to crack the Pirates’ top five. There’s something to be said for that. The Pirates have a chance to dominate pitching in the NL Central for years to come.
If the Pittsburgh Pirates stink it up in the coming weeks and become sellers at the deadline, the trade today helps the Pirates. The asking price for Gerrit Cole has been set. Two years of Cole is of similar value to three years of Quintana. If the Pirates got a similar package for Cole that the White Sox got for Quintana, I would be happy.
Time will tell where these two organizations are headed. One thing is certain. Great pitching will always defeat great hitting. We see that year after year in the All-Star game. The Cubs got their guy today, but nothing is certain for their pitching tomorrow.
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