If the Yankees pull the trigger on a Jose Quintana trade, the White Sox 27-year-old lefty (28 by Opening Day 2017) would slide comfortably into the No. 2 slot in their rotation, if only by default to Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees de facto ace.
Judging by past performance — and barring injury, of course — you can pencil him in for 32 starts, 200 innings, 175 strikeouts and a sub-3.50 ERA. But Quintana is more than just the quintessential workhorse and the epitome of the reliable starter who takes the ball every five days. In a world without Chris Sale, Quintana would have been the unquestioned ace of the White Sox staff. Best of all, he is signed through 2018 at a ridiculously inexpensive $14.35 million over the next two seasons, with a $10.5 million club option for 2019.
There is talk now that the Yankees are “interested” in trading for Quintana, which seems self-evident, because which team wouldn’t be interested in a pitcher like that?
Quintana throws hard, gets a good amount of ground balls, and most attractively for a Yankee Stadium pitcher, has an acceptably low home run rate. His 46-46 career record should be discounted as more of an indication of the team, and the offense, he has been pitching for; in 2017, the Chisox scored two runs or less in 11 of Quintana’s 32 starts. Not surprisingly, he was 0-8 in those starts.
Clearly, Quintana would be a major upgrade the Yankees threadbare rotation, which aside from Tanaka includes CC Sabathia, who will probably be hard-pressed to duplicate his unexpectedly good 2016 in the final year of the six year, $147 million contract the Yankees gave him following 2011, and Michael Pineda, who maddeningly inconsistent and home-run prone last season. After that, it is round up the usual suspects — Adam Warren, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Luis Severino — to cobble together the rest of a starting staff. And Severino’s future may very be in the bullpen.
The question, of course, is how much would the Yankees be willing to part with in exchange for Quintana, and how much should they be willing to part with?
We know from their dalliance with a Sale trade that in exchange for their ace, the White Sox were asking for the world; for Quintana, they might merely ask for the moon.
But that means, in all likelihood, highly-touted OF prospect Clint Frazier, probably either Gleyber Torres or Jorge Mateo, and perhaps Aaron Judge.
Is that too much to ask, even for a pitcher of the caliber of Quintana?
It all depends, I suppose, on what the Yankees believe their prospects for success are in 2017, and what their plans are beyond this season. In all probability, the addition of Quintana, as good as he is, makes the Yankees no better than a wild card prospect for 2017, and a lot of things have to go right for them even to make that possible.
By all indications, the Yankees are aiming more for 2018, when players like Frazier and Torres could be expected to arrive in the Bronx, and 2019, when Bryce Harper becomes the crown jewel in the free agent market.
In that case, parting with prospects who the Yankees seem to have high hopes for in exchange for Quintana could be a self-defeating strategy.
But there is always the possibility that Tanaka, who pitched very well for most of 2016, will opt out of his contract after 2017, leaving the Yankees truly bereft of starting pitching. In that case, it would make plenty of sense to have traded for Quintana, even at great cost, to anchor your staff for the next two seasons.
That is the quandary facing Brian Cashman and his staff — how much of the future to give up for the sake of the present, and how much difference will it make in the short-term anyway?
The odds are the 2017 Yankees aren’t going very far, either with or without Quintana, but the 2018 and 2019 Yankees? That could be a very different story. Now it’s up to Cashman to decide what he would need in addition to Jose Quintana to make story a reality.