The MLB trade deadline is still 12 days away but there have already been three key moves.
Jose Quintana Deal
The first was a deal made between the two clubs in the Windy City. The Chicago White Sox dealt SP Jose Quintana to the Cubs for prospects Eloy Jimenez (OF), Dylan Cease (RHP), Matt Rose (1B), and Bryant Flete (IF).
Quintana has been a known commodity for quite some time in the MLB, but has remained one of the most underrated starting pitchers in the game. For the past four years Quintana has pitched 200+ innings with an ERA below 3.51 and over 160 K. His 20.6 WAR is good for 6th best by a pitcher from 2013-2017, beaten only by the likes of Kershaw, Scherzer, Sale, Kluber, and Price.
His 2017 campaign hasn’t gone as well as the previous four, but his production has picked up as of late. In his last six starts he has dropped his ERA from 5.30 to 4.20 over 36.2 innings, which includes his first start with the Cubs in which he went 7 innings allowing only 3 hits, 0 ER, with 12 punch outs.
His impact has already been made and the hope is he will help shore up the Cubs struggling rotation. The best rotation in the MLB last year has performed nowhere near as well in 2017. Down years from Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks have been one of the main reasons why the Cubs are so far from their 2016 Championship form.
The other reason Quintana was such a valuable trade piece for the White Sox is his contract. While many players shopped at the deadline are rentals with expiring contracts at the end of the season, Quintana is now controlled by the Cubs through 2020. His salary is also pennies on the dollar compared to what his fair market value is as he will be making a measly $29.85 million over the next three years.
On the White Sox side of things, this trade is another step in their complete system overhaul and rebuild that has taken place over the past couple of years. While the Sox have been struggling to contend for a while, the Chris Sale trade seemed to signal their commitment to a true rebuild, and so far, it is going well.
In this trade they picked up the Cubs top two prospects in Jimenez and Cease. Jimenez is ranked 8th , according to MLB.com’s top 100 prospects, and Cease comes in at 63rd on the same list.
Jimenez is power-bat that has drawn comparisons to Jorge Soler with upside potential to the likes of Giancarlo Stanton. He has a smooth swing and has demonstrated the ability to hit HRs without selling out for power. He recently made headlines and followed in the footsteps of Roy Hobbs of The Natural by destroying a light fixture beyond the LF wall in a minor league HR Derby.
Cease is a hard throwing right-hander who has been able to touch 100 MPH on the radar gun at times while consistently sitting at 94-98. He has potential to be a top of the rotation starter, with a plus curveball in his repertoire, but is still only in his first professional season so there is much to be seen.
J.D. Martinez Trade
The two other pre-deadline deals that made waves throughout the league took place yesterday. This first went down in the afternoon when the Detroit Tigers shipped J.D. Martinez to the Arizona Diamondbacks for three prospects.
With Martinez, the Dbacks filled out their outfield and now their trio of David Peralta, A.J. Pollock, and Martinez is up there with the best in the league along with the likes of the Miami Marlins and Boston Red Sox.
His contract is up at the end of the season, so Martinez is a rental due for a big pay-day this offseason whether it be from the Diamondbacks or another team around the league. What this means for the Dbacks is that they are going all in on the 2017 season.
Their record (54-39 good for 4th best in the MLB) and roster make this seem like an obvious conclusion and move, but being stuck behind the surging and MLB-best Los Angeles Dodgers makes it somewhat questionable. They are now 10.5 games behind the Dodgers who have won 30 of their last 34 games including all of their last 10.
It seems incredibly unlikely that they’ll be able to catch LA, and with the new wild card format, they’re basically going all in for a one game playoff to get into the actual playoffs. If the Dbacks are able to win the wild card game this move certainly helps them throughout the rest of the postseason.
What makes the deal for the Dbacks even more reasonable is that Arizona didn’t have to give up all that much for J.D. The Tigers brought in three young IF prospects, Dawel Lugo, Sergio Alcantara, and Jose King. All three seem to have big league potential but none standout as having future All-Star potential.
More significant than the haul the Tigers got in the deal is the signaling that they are officially sellers and believe time has run out on the core they’ve been riding since acquiring Miguel Cabrera from the Marlins in 2007. It will be interesting to see what’s next from the Tigers as rumors have already swirled about the possibility of Cabrera and Justin Verlander being on the block.
Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees
The White Sox unloaded more veteran talent in a deal with the Bronx Bombers who sacrificed three prospects and struggling relief pitcher Tyler Clippard in the deal.
The deal shakes up the balance of power in the AL and AL East especially. When Frazier was removed from the lineup Tuesday night speculation was that he was getting ready to be sent to Yankees rival, the Boston Red Sox who also desperately needed and still need corner infield help.
The Yankees not only upgraded their roster, but in preventing the Red Sox from doing so have also hurt their rivals’ chances at both winning the division and the World Series.
The Yanks added another power bat to their lineup who will surely thrive in the HR friendly Yankee stadium, but the most important and under appreciated part of this trade was the bullpen upgrades New York received.
Both Kahnle and Robertson are hard throwing righties with plus secondary pitches having very good seasons for the White Sox. Both hold sub 3.00 ERAs and have more strikeouts than innings pitched. Both of these guys would contend to be closers on many MLB teams and now give the Yankees one of the best, if not the best bullpen in all of baseball.
Similar to when they were running out the three-headed monster of Betances, Miller, and Chapman, the Yanks now have four closer caliber relievers that can almost guarantee victory when holding a lead past the 5th inning. This luxury will help immensely in the postseason as starting pitchers generally have a shorter leash and will especially in the Bronx due to their lack of talent behind Luis Severino.
For the White Sox, similar to the Quintana deal, it is another move to build their already MLB-best farm system. The big piece they bring in this deal is OF Blake Rutherford who ranks as the 30th best prospect in baseball. Rutherford has bright upside potential and holds all the tools to be a potential future all-star on the south of Chicago. He excelled in Rookie ball in 2016 after being drafted 18th overall by NYY and has continued to produce in a competition this year.
The future is very bright for the White Sox who now hold nine of the top 68 prospects, per MLB.com. Their rebuild has been incredible since the Sale deal and they now are primed to be a force to be reckoned with in the near future.
They may have given up a bit too much in this deal, especially in Kahnle who has a controllable and cheap contract, but their continued commitment to add depth and talent to their farm system should eventually pay off.