The White Sox, who appear to be conceding the division to other teams, traded their ace, Jose Quintana, to the Cubs in exchange for four minor leaguers, including the Cubs’ two top prospects. Eloy Jimenez, pitcher Dylan Cease, first baseman Matt Rose and middle infielder Bryant Flete. Quintana, 28, is under contract for the next three seasons at an average of just over $10 million per year. He had spent his entire six-year MLB career with the White Sox, developing in the team’s top pitcher behind Chris Sale. When Sale was traded to the Red Sox last winter, Quintana quickly became a trade target himself.
The trade does not necessarily have ramifications for the rest of the division in 2017 but could impact the race next season and obviously into the future.
Jimenez is one of the best prospects in baseball. He looks the part of an All-Star, power-hitting corner outfielder, and the tools and minor-league performance both back the projection that most scouts have on him. The biggest impact tool here is his power. It’s literally light-tower power as evidenced by the video below:
It’s comfortably 70 raw at present. Jimenez is only 20 years old and still has a bit of projection left in his 6-foot-4 frame. He’s already getting a lot of that power into games as well. There’s some swing and miss here, but he has an advanced enough approach that the “grip it and rip it” philosophy is viable. And while the swing is leveraged, it isn’t overly long and Jimenez remains balanced throughout. It is the picture of controlled violence. There’s potentially 30-plus home runs in the profile eventually, and it could come with an average-to-above hit tool as well.
Defensively, well, he’s likely a left fielder long term. He’ll be fine there, although presently the glove is a bit raw. As mentioned, it’s the bat that’s going to carry the profile, though. Jimenez is a potential role 7 outfielder, with a relatively safe first-division-regular fallback position given he’s still in A-ball. That does seem like a lot to give up, but the Cubs didn’t really have another prospect who could headline a Quintana deal, at least not without raiding the 25-man roster (not an option for a team making a win-now move like this). Still, you’d be forgiven for thinking the price was a bit steep, but how steep depends on your feelings on the second piece in the deal, Cease.
White Sox fans will probably bet on the latter.
When Cease is on the field, the results have been excellent. The fastball has been more mid-90s than high 90s this year as a starter, but there’s plenty of velocity. He is a plus athlete with big arm speed and he can put his heavy four-seamer where he wants. The heater alone has been too much for Midwest League bats. Cease also features a low-70s curve with big depth and hard bite at its best. It’s a potential plus offering with command refinement. The changeup is a work in progress, but there’s potential for it to be an average major-league offering, the final piece of the puzzle that would make him a mid-rotation starter.
However, Cease’s current high for innings in a season was set this year. He’s thrown 51 so far. He has a Tommy John surgery on his resume already. He’s a bit old for the Midwest League because of the lost time. He has a slim frame and is unlikely to add much more physical bulk/strength. If you think he’s a late-inning reliever the White Sox still made out quite well here, but the overall package seems reasonable. You just aren’t getting a “buy-low” discount of any sort based on Quintana’s mediocre first half. We can actually quibble now about how much “worse” it makes the deal, given the increasing share of innings thrown by bullpens, and the potential for Cease to be deployed as a multi-inning weapon late. In either role, he’s comfortably a top-101 prospect in most baseball circles. We may not know the ultimate winner and loser of this deal—if any—for a few years, but we can say that the Cubs’ farm system has taken a massive hit to bolster their chances to cash in again in this contention cycle.
Rose is a tall, skinny, 22-year-old first baseman who uses a leveraged swing to generate a solid amount of game pop. He’s hitting for quality power in High-A (14 homers) this season. However, he’ll be prone to strike out even more than he does now because of a lack of plus bat speed and a long swing path. A former college pitcher, Rose only played first base in the series I saw him, but his plus-plus arm will play at the hot corner. Has the potential to be a future bench bat.
Flete is a smaller, 24-year-old second baseman who’s hitting for a good average in High-A (.305). However, he’s more of a poke hitter who’ll have trouble driving the ball for even gap power at the higher levels, while making lots of weak contact because of his lack of balance in the box. Projects as organizational infield depth.
His offensive upside is off the metaphorical charts. Despite being one of the youngest hitters in High-A, the 20-year-old has recorded a .271/.351/.490 slash line with 16 extra-base hits (eight home runs), while striking out in just 20 percent of his 174 plate appearances. There’s no question this deal accelerates Jimenez’s big-league trajectory, putting him on track to debut in Chicago sometime next season, while also establishing him as one of the clear centerpieces of the White Sox’s rebuilding effort.