White Sox maximize return in Jose Quintana deal

The White Sox finally pulled the trigger on a trade for Jose Quintana on Thursday, which wasn’t that big of a surprise.  The surprise was that they made the deal with the team across town, the Cubs.  Despite pitching being an obvious concern for the Cubs lately, they had not really come up in any of the recent rumors surrounding Quintana.  So to see these two teams pull of a trade of this magnitude without anyone really catching wind of it, was somewhat surprising.

The trade becomes the first between the two clubs in more than a decade, but probably the biggest trade since the one that sent Sammy Sosa to the North Side in exchange for George Bell in 1992.

The White Sox acquired four prospects in the deal that sent their ace across town, including the Cubs top two prospects according to MLB.com.  The big prizes in the deal for the Sox were outfielder Eloy Jimenez, and pitcher Dylan Cease, both ranked as top 100 prospects.

Jimenez is the big prize.  Ranked number eight by MLB and number five by Baseball America, Jimenez is a big, strong outfield prospect that is expected to have big power.  He was the Midwest League MVP last year, slashing .329/.369/.532 with 14 homers, 40 doubles and a .901 OPS.  This year at high-A he is slashing .271/.351/.841 with 8 homers in 42 games.

He is just 20-years-old and still developing but most people around baseball are very high on Jimenez.  Most believe he will develop into a very good hitter, thanks to his tremendous bat speed and use of the entire field.  In the Arizona Fall League he drew comparisons to Giancarlo Stanton.  He doesn’t strike out a ton, like a lot of young hitters.  He is at about 20% the last two years, which is better than the MLB league average.  He doesn’t draw a lot of walks though, with just a 5% walk rate last year.  He has improved that significantly this year, with a walk rate a little over 10%, so that is quite encouraging.

Jimenez has played mostly in left field, and that figures to be his spot going forwards.  He has a plus arm, so he could potentially move to right field in the future.  Speed isn’t a big part of his game, as he is slightly below average to average on the base paths.  But if he can hit the way people expect him to, he will be doing plenty of trotting so the speed won’t really come into play.

The other big piece of the deal is right-handed pitcher Dylan Cease, who checks in at number 63 on MLB’s prospect list and at 83 on Baseball America’s midseason list.  Cease is 6’2’’ and 190 lbs. and 21-years old.  He was a sixth round pick in 2014 by the Cubs and then had Tommy John surgery right after that.  Any concerns about his velocity coming back were put to bed when he was throwing mid to upper 90’s and even touching triple digits last summer.

In 13 starts at South Bend (low-A) this year Cease has posted a 2.79 ERA, and has 74 strikeouts in 51.2 innings.  He has also yielded just 39 hits on the year.  He is walking 4.5 batters per nine innings so he still needs to work on his control, which is one area he grades below average.

His fastball is obviously his big weapon, but his curveball is also a plus pitch.  When it is on, it has been compared to Dwight Gooden’s curve according to MLB.com.  He still needs to develop his changeup, which is not yet a reliable third pitch.  But developing changeups is one of the Sox specialties.

Cease still projects as a possible top of the rotation pitcher if he can put it all together and stay healthy.  Expect the Sox to take their time bringing him along.  With the surplus of arms they have in the system now, there really isn’t any need to rush him.  He will report to the Sox low-A affiliate in Kannapolis.

Both Jimenez and Cease are projected as 2019 for their MLB ETA according to MLB.com.

The other two players to come over in the deal weren’t huge pieces like Jimenez and Cease, but both have some potential.

Matt Rose is a 22-year-old first baseman who was an 11th round pick but the Cubs out of Georgia State in the 2015 draft.  At high-A this year Rose is slashing .227/.281/.481 with 14 homers and 15 doubles in 65 games.  His strikeout rate is about 24% over the last two years, which is pretty high.  Last year he was walking at about a 9.5% clip, but that is down to 5.9% this year.  He is 6’4’’ and 195lbs and has good raw power, but needs to make more contact and get that walk rate back up if he has any chance of sticking long term.

Bryant Flete is a 24-year-old middle infielder from Venezuela.  He’s having a pretty solid year at high-A right now slashing .305/.355/.425 with six homers and 15 doubles.  His age indicates that he has developed slowly, and this is by far his best year at the plate.  Flete doesn’t strike out a lot and might finally be making consistent contact this year after hitting just .246 between low and high-A last year.

With the completion of this deal, the White Sox now boast arguably the best farm system in all of baseball.  They have nine of the top-100 prospects on MLB.com’s list including three of the top 11 and five of the top 30 overall.

Of those nine prospects, six of them came over in the trades of Chris Sale, Adam Eaton, and now Jose Quintana.  This phase of the rebuild has to be judged a huge success.  The Sox got tremendous value in return for their best assets, and have very quickly turned one of the worst farm systems, into maybe the best in baseball.  And they did it all in about half a year.

Now the next phase of the rebuild will hinge on the development of these assets and supplementing the stocked system with some established major leaguers via free agency and trades.  If Hahn is as successful doing that as he has been in acquiring young talent, the Sox will be in really good shape a couple of years from now.

Matt Hoeppner

Born and raised in the south suburbs of Chicago. Graduate of Michigan State University's J-School. Fourth generation Sox fan. Pitch F/X and Statcast operator in Detroit and occasional play-by-play announcer for Michigan Regional Sports Network.

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