Chicago Cubs: It’s too early to name a winner in Jose Quintana trade

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 14: Jose Quintana
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 14: Jose Quintana /

In his ninth start with the Chicago Cubs, Jose Quintana overcame a rough first inning to pick up the win against the Pittsburgh Pirates. But that didn’t stop fans from agonizing over whether or not the team won the trade with the Chicago White Sox.

It’s true, Jose Quintana is not having a particularly impressive season. He struggled in the first half of the season with the Chicago White Sox and things haven’t exactly smoothed out for him with the Chicago Cubs either.

This has led some to conclude the Cubs have already lost their trade with the White Sox. If you’ll recall, the Chicago Cubs sent their number one overall prospect, Eloy Jimenez, as well as highly-regarded pitching prospect Dylan Cease to the White Sox for Quintana at the July trade deadline.

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Down year for Quintana

In 27 starts with both the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox this season, Quintana is 9-11 with a 4.49 ERA in 156 1/3  innings pitched. He recorded a 4.49 ERA over 104 1/3 innings pitched with the White Sox and so far has a 4.50 ERA over 52 innings pitched with the Cubs.

It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly is at the root of Quintana’s struggles this season. Looking at his career numbers, his ERA is really the only thing that deviates from what he’s done in the past. His average fastball velocity has floated around 92 mph throughout his career, and that hasn’t changed this season. No problems there.

His strikeout rate this season, 9.84 K/9, is actually up from his career mark of 7.79 K/9. His walk rate is little higher than usual, but not enough to warrant significant concern. Those areas check out fine.

His 2017 ground ball rate of 43.9 percent is essentially the same as his career rate of 44.2 percent. His current fly ball rate of 36.3 percent is also relatively unchanged from his career rate of 34.4 percent. Soft, medium and hard contact rates are also all about the same as they’ve been historically been for Quintana.

The most glaring issue for Quintana? The same issue the rest of the Cubs’ starting staff has had for much of the year: early innings. Quintana has a 5.46 ERA his first time through a team’s batting order. That number drops to 4.55 the second time through and 3.27 the third time through. You generally see batters start to figure a pitcher out as the game goes along, but the opposite has been true in Quintana’s case. He’s figuring them out. Now he just needs to get back to controlling things early on.

Far too early to declare a winner in this trade

It seems as though many of the fans panicking in the aftermath of this trade have forgotten Quintana is under team control for another two seasons after 2017. It doesn’t all hinge on how he finishes this season.

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Prior to this year, Quintana has never finished a season with an ERA over 3.76. He’s quietly been one of the more efficient pitchers in the league for the last five years. Pitching in the shadow of Chris Sale sort of detracted attention from him, though.

Jose Quintana is a 28-year-old all-star who’s proven to be an efficient and reliable starting pitcher in his career. Eloy Jimenez has exactly zero major league at-bats. There is not yet a winner or loser in this trade.