I've always been a fan of rebuilds. It probably stems from playing hours and hours and hours of Franchise Mode in games like Madden and MVP Baseball. There were phases of my video game playing career where I would barely even play the actual games. I would just make all the trades and free agent signings then sim weeks at a time. There's just something so satisfying about taking a shitty team and building them into a perennial contender.
The best rebuild I've ever seen in modern sports is the present day Cubs. In exactly five years Theo Epstein used a combination of savvy trades (Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Jake Arrieta), smart draft picks (Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber), and free agent signings (Jon Lester) to turn the lovable losers into World Series champs. So it should come as no surprise that their crosstown rival, the White Sox, are currently looking to do something similar.
Over the winter the Sox traded both Chris Sale and Adam Eaton for a haul of prospects to begin a rebuild of their own. What was exciting for the White Sox was that even after those deals they still had pieces to sell. That bring us to Jose Quintana. General Manager Rick Hahn elected not to move him this past off-season, saying no team was willing to meet their demands of a return package. Between 2013 and 2016 what you got from Quintana was consistency, both start to start and season to season. Take a look:
So there was plenty of buzz surrounding "Q" this winter, particularly because he entered 2017 still having four years of control. Then came this spring's World Baseball Classic. On a national stage pitching for Columbia Quintana shut down Team USA in round one play. A lot of the baseball world was watching and his stock had never been higher. But then the season started and Q struggled...mightily. Between April and May he went 2-7 across 11 starts while posting a 5.60 ERA.
It seemed as if his stock was falling drastically each time he pitched. Then a funny thing happened. Quintana started looking like himself again. Through five starts in June he has a 1.78 ERA with 30 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings. So which Quintana is the real Quintana? Probably somewhere in the middle, but certainly closer to the June version we've seen lately. Here's the thing though. Brace yourself White Sox fans. Quintana is a very good pitcher, but he's not great. He was underrated for a while but there's a reason he has received Cy Young votes in just one season, when he finished 10th last year. There's certainly a chance Hahn was asking for a little too much this winter.
However, if the White Sox really believe Quintana is more valuable than what they were being offered in the off-season, it's tough to blame them for not making the move. Even today he still has 3 and a half years of club control, so Chicago does not need to rush a trade. But the lesson from the first few months of this year should be that values can change, and they can change quickly. Quintana could begin to underperform again, or he could get hurt.
A month ago it seemed as if the White Sox had overplayed their hand. Now? Maybe not. It depends how much teams are buying into Quintana's June versus the first two months. It also depends on if the White Sox have adjusted trade expectations at all. All I know is that prospects should be treated like lottery tickets. Some, such as Yoan Moncada, have a higher chance of hitting. Some are just fliers. During the Cubs rebuild they traded Ryan Dempster for a Single-A pitcher named Kyle Hendricks. They hit the jackpot, but playing the prospect trade game is all about the mentality of it. The goal should be to try and acquire as many as possible and see which stick. The White Sox are better off trading Quintana now than two years from now. If they can get a reasonable offer at the deadline this year they should do it.