After they missed on closing out a Jose Quintana trade last offseason, the White Sox converted on Thursday morning and gave an already-impressive rebuild another layer.
Only four days after talks began, the White Sox agreed to send their 2016 All-Star pitcher to the Cubs in exchange for a four-player package that includes highly-touted prospect Eloy Jimenez. The right fielder gives the White Sox a critical potential impact bat they needed as part of their plan as well as a hard-throwing right-hander in Dylan Cease, whom one American League scout described as a poor man’s Michael Kopech, and two Single-A infielders. The contents of the package were good enough to convince general manager Rick Hahn to part with Quintana, who blossomed during his 5 1/2 seasons with the White Sox. Hahn said his team’s return from the Cubs far exceeds any offer they’d previously received.
“We had a few things that we felt got to about that 5-yard line (in December) and then in the end, for whatever reason, things fall apart, which happens frankly more often than not in these situations,” Hahn said. “In our opinion, in retrospect this deal actually trumps anything that we discussed last offseason.”
After a quick discussion last month, talks between the teams gained steam on Sunday when Hahn texted Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein to see if he had interest in Quintana. Hahn didn’t realize it at the time, but he inadvertently texted Epstein during the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 10-run first inning on Sunday.
Having previously held discussions with others clubs that were advanced enough where the White Sox considered holding Quintana from starting on Friday in Denver, Hahn wanted to gauge the Cubs’ interest. He immediately informed Epstein the White Sox would only move forward if Jimenez and Cease were included in the package. A day later, Epstein contacted Hahn, who was in Miami at the All-Star Fan Fest with his son, Charlie. The two traded text messages back and forth while Hahn sat in the Marlins Park crowd for Tuesday’s All-Star Game before they reached an agreement.
“This was the best package offered to us and we were ready to pull the trigger on it and it finally came into place,” Hahn said.
The package gives the White Sox arguably the best farm system in baseball. The team now possesses nine of MLBPipeline.com’s top-100 prospects and seven top-100 farmhands, according to BaseballAmerica.com. Of MLB.com’s nine, six have been acquired in the trades for Quintana, Chris Sale and Adam Eaton.
The return also validates Hahn’s decision to hold off on trading Quintana last offseason. Hahn and the White Sox received some criticism in May when Quintana had two of the worst starts of his career in consecutive outings.
Reviews from scouts around the league varied but mostly favored the package the White Sox received. One AL scout said Jimenez “might be a monster — wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up better than (Yoan) Moncada.” A National League scout said the White Sox end of the deal is “good not great — Jimenez is really good.” One reason several scouts cited for a good grade instead of great is the question of whether or not Cease sticks as a starting pitcher. Either way, Hahn said he’s more than satisfied with what the White Sox got back dating back to when Quintana unofficially became available last season.
“This package of prospects we received today not only was far and away the best offer, the best possibility, that we’ve discussed with any club since we’ve started this process rough a year ago or so,” Hahn said. “But it’s one that allows us to continue to add to the prospect base that we’ve accumulated in a potentially high impact way.”