For the second year in a row, Theo Epstein and the Chicago Cubs gave up way too much for a pitcher. Last year the Cubs shipped top prospect Gleyber Torres as part of a package that brought back Aroldis Chapman. On Thursday they, again, shipped their top prospect Eloy Jimenez, to the Chicago White Sox to acquire Jose Quintana.
The Cubs won the World Series with Chapman closing in 2016, so they can be forgiven for splurging and giving up a guy who currently ranks as Baseball America’s No. 3 prospect. While not having Torres in the long-term will hurt the Cubs, they finally won a title, so you’re willing to forgive that kind of move. But the Quintana deal is a mess.
Jimenez is currently BA’s No. 5 prospect and most have him pegged as an All-Star in the making. Joining him on the trip to the South Side is righty Dylan Cease, who was universally regarded Chicago’s second-best minor leaguer, and top pitching prospect. Cease is ranked 83rd on BA’s top 100. After this trade the Cubs have none of baseball’s top 100 prospects. Minor league infielders Matt Rose and Bryant Flete are also headed to the ChiSox.
Chicago received Quintana in return, a 28-year-old lefty with a solid track record. The problem? He’s in the middle of the worst year of his career.
So far this season, Quintana has a 4-8 record, with a 4.49 ERA, 1.32 WHIP. While his contract is incredibly team-friendly — he’s due just $29.35 million over the next three seasons with a $1 million buyout for both 2019 and 2020 — the Cubs gave up a ton of value for a guy who wasn’t the best starter on the market.
Detroit Tigers righty Michael Fulmer is just 24, under team control for years and has been spectacular since debuting last season. Fulmer is 20-13 with a 3.11 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP in 274.2 innings since reaching the big leagues in 2016. The Tigers almost certainly would have taken Jimenez and Cease for him.
The Tampa Bay Rays have been looking to sell on Chris Archer for a while. He’s under contract through 2020 for an even friendlier $22.75 million and is 7-5 with a 3.95 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP this season. Archer also has a higher ceiling than Quintana, though their career numbers are almost identical.
I get it, the Cubs are deep on the position player side of things and needed pitching. But in back-to-back years they’ve surrendered two of the top five prospects in baseball and haven’t gotten adequate value. It’s not like they wound up with a Max Scherzer, Chris Sale or Zack Greinke-type guy, or a long-term solution at closer. They got Quintana — who will likely become their third starter — and three months of Chapman. That’s not much for such a high price.
If you’re going to trade your best prospects, you better get something that creates a dramatic improvement in the long run. I don’t think the Cubs have done that. They got a little better, while the White Sox got a massive infusion of talent to their already stocked farm system.