With the way the White Sox are constructed, where all there is to do is marvel at the quality of the starting pitching, it’s hard to react to any proposed trade of say, Jose Quintana without reverting to the stance of an oppressed and put-upon widowed mother in the 1960’s learning that her son has been drafted for Vietnam after having already lost her husband in Korea.
“No! Noooo! Haven’t I already lost enough in this madness?!?! Is there no one you won’t take!? Thank goodness my son Chris’ gangly frame was deemed unfit for service!”
But we need to be mature about these sorts of things, even when Doug Padilla of ESPN Chicago begins an article as hurtfully as this:
“The better Jose Quintana gets, the bigger the possibility he could end up on somebody else’s roster to start the 2014 season.”
Oof. This is a truth any fan has to face during a rebuilding or retooling phase, or anytime a trade of even moderate significance takes place–you’ve got to trade something to get something. But this is different than coping with Alex Rios or Jake Peavy, expensive sportscars that are out of place during lean times. Jose Quintana, making barely above the league-minimum this season and next, and under his market value for a couple more years after that, is player whose presence can be justified at all times.
He’s a good player providing immediate value, who is also steadily improving and promising future returns. He’s anywhere from a good No. 3 starter–obviously a mighty fine thing to have, since the Sox were willing to pay John Danks $65 million over five years on the notion that he would provide such a service–to the sixth-best starter in the whole damn American League if you want to buy in hard to Baseball Reference’s measure of wins above replacement and the extreme view of U.S. Cellular Field that measure entails. If Chris Sale is untouchable, this is the best trade chit the Sox have, because he’s the second-most valuable player on the team.
There’s obviously a reason to trade him, as upsetting as it may be. The White Sox are desperate for bats, don’t have much luck in developing them and will have to pay a premium to draw them in from outside the organization and trading Quintana would be drawing from an area of strength.
The White Sox do however, pride themselves in developing quality pitching, and rightly so. Just this year they successfully blended former barely-a-prospect Hector Santiago into the starting rotation, graduated Andre Rienzo and Erik Johnson and saw moments of capability from both, and since Quintana is the shining jewel of this developmental system–a twice-released minor league free agent who hadn’t cracked Double-A transformed into a stud in two years–his continuing progress indeed works to make the case for his replaceability.
The degree to which Quintana was misevaluated and has displayed rare qualities to enable his rapid development can become underrated in conversation like this. He’s still rare, because it’s rare that anyone blossoms to this degree. Starting from Opening Day 2012, most would have been pretty satisfied with 316 innings of a 3.65 ERA from Chris Sale.
It’s understandable that hard sacrifices become necessary to acquire help, but if Quintana were to move, it would provide plenty of reasons for bitterness if the trade was not a part of a more exhaustive effort to revamp the offense. In their two big deadline trades, the most impressive part of the return package was piles of cash. Free agency provides its own risks and continually diminishing returns, but without money being spent to fill immediate holes in the lineup or eaten in trades in order to ensure a bigger prospect return, or unless the Sox are going to have a scouting department five times larger than any other team in baseball, cannibalizing the reserves of young pitching begins to read as a cost-cutting measure rather than a necessary evil.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan