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Yankees trade rumors: Yanks targeting Jose Quintana

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Another superb White Sox lefty could be heading to the AL East.

Chicago White Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Once Chris Sale was traded to Boston, it became evident that pretty much everyone on the White Sox was on the trade market. Given the team’s struggles, both Sale and Jose Quintana were frequently heard names in rumors over the past few years, but now that Sale and Adam Eaton are gone, Quintana will probably be soon to follow.

Count the Yankees in on the Jose Quintana Sweepstakes. According to Jon Morosi, Brian Cashman and company are indeed interested in the southpaw, who has quietly been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past few years. Morosi also noted that given the quality of the Yankees’ farm system, they have the kind of prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

Morosi’s right. MLB.com’s Jim Callis recently said that the Yankees have the best farm system in baseball, and he isn’t the only person in the industry to hold that opinion. With Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, Blake Rutherford, and more, the Yankees have plenty of trade chips at their disposal. Plenty of fans are going to call them untouchable and insist on a lighter package, but Quintana is the type of pitcher who should make teams at least consider dealing their best prospects.

Any realistic offer is almost certainly going to include at least one of those popular Baby Bombers. No matter how good they look, even the best prospects are suspects—for modern Yankees fans, that’s the Jesus Montero Principle.

Pitchers as young, good, and affordable as Quintana simply don’t hit the free agent market anymore. He will only be 28 years old on Opening Day and is on a ridiculously reasonable contract that will pay him at most $37.85 million through the end of the 2020 campaign (the last two years are team options). Even in that final year, Quintana will be 31, the same age that Jake Arrieta will be when he begins his inevitably huge free agent contract after 2017.

For all the fascinating position player prospects in the Yankees’ system, they aren’t as strong on pitching. James Kaprielian has just 56 total minor league innings to his name in two seasons (counting his recent Arizona Fall League stint). Justus Sheffield has a mid-rotation ceiling and has made one start above A-ball. Domingo Acevedo has battled injuries, will be 23 in March, and has yet to make any above appearances above A-ball. Analysts say that Albert Abreu and Chance Adams will most likely end up in the bullpen. On and on down the list, there are potential flaws, and even if they weren’t there, the best of pitching prospects don’t necessarily pan out either (see: Trevor Bauer, Brian Matusz, Joba Chamberlain, etc.).

Masahiro Tanaka will almost certainly opt out after 2017. CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda’s contracts expire, too. Like them or not, those will be voids in the rotation, and the Yankees have to fill them. The only starters the Yankees have in the organization right now for 2018 are Luis Severino, Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell, Adam Warren, and their ilk. Maybe they get lucky and can sign Shohei Otani if he is posted next year, but they will need more reliable starters beyond him.

Quintana would fill that void for 2017 and then some. He is young, remarkably healthy, a damn good pitcher well-suited for Yankee Stadium as a lefty, and by some measures, he has been the seventh-best pitcher in baseball since the start of 2013. That was his first full season after a strong debut as a rookie in 2012. From 2013-16, Quintana has posted a 3.35 ERA (83 ERA-), 3.34 FIP (81 FIP-), 7.8 K/9, and a 2.2 BB/9. To boot, his injury history is so pristine that in that time, he’s made more starts (129) than aces like like Sale, Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Corey Kluber, and Cole Hamels.

So yes, Quintana would be an enormous addition to the Yankees’ rotation. The potential prospect haul that would go to Chicago would be a big one, but he is an even better pitcher than the average fan would guess. He is the rare major-league commodity who would likely be worth the risk of sending top prospects away.

The Yankees made a scouting mistake once by letting Quintana go too soon back in 2011. That is probably their worst transaction of the last decade. They can make up for it by bringing him back. Hopefully they will give the White Sox an impressive offer to consider.

Update

Ultimately not surprising.