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Chicago Cubs: Jose Quintana to lead off series against Brewers

(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) /
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The Chicago Cubs start perhaps the most critical series of the first half the 2019 season.  Jose Quintana gets the Cubs started.  Does a solid showing finally quiet the doubters?

Acquired in a mid-season trade in 2017, Jose Quintana has been a solid, if not spectacular addition, to the Chicago Cubs rotation.  Some doubt the value of the deal.  So first, let’s take a look at where the rotation stood after 2016.

The need for pitching

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Jason Hammel who had put up good numbers in 2015 and 2016 was headed into free agency and at 33 would not return to the Cubs. And John Lackey, 38, was in the final year of a two-year deal.

Heading into 2017 the rotation was Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, and Lackey.  Mike Montgomery made his case for the fifth spot, but his value as a long reliever out of the bullpen was seen as critical as the only left-handed reliever besides Rob Zastryzny before the Cubs signed Brian Duensing.

The Cubs added LHP Brett Anderson as their fifth starter but by the middle of May, on the IL with a back injury and sporting an 8.18 ERA; it was clear that experiment had failed.  He was DFA’d in July.

Eddie Butler filled in, but it was clear that the righty wasn’t the answer either, posting a 3.86 ERA and 1.442 WHIP in eleven games from May 12 to July 15.  So with Hendricks headed to IL, enter Mike Montgomery in June to start.

Putting the trade in perspective

With no MLB ready pitching down on the farm, the Cubs front office had to go shopping. In two trades they acquired Justin Wilson from the Tigers and Jose Quintana from the White Sox.

In exchange for Quintana, the Cubs sent minor league pitcher Dylan Cease, along with Eloy Jimenez, Bryant Flete, and Matt Rose to the Southside.  And it is this four for one deal that gets the most scrutiny.  So in 2017, what did the Cubs get and what did they give up.

Quintana over five seasons had accumulated a 3.41 ERA, a 1.242 WHIP over 951 innings, averaged 7.4 strikeouts per game to 2.4 walks. He pitched 200 or more innings every season from 2013 to 2016.  Quintana rated as a solid starter who made over 30 starts a season, and averaged six-plus innings per start.  Not Justin Verlander or Max Scherzer to be sure. But he wasn’t injury prone, made his starts, and didn’t hurt your chances for a win.

Who did the Cubs give up?

Well, Bryant Flete and Matt Rose aren’t in baseball anymore, so the four for one has become a two for one deal.

Dylan Cease was 21 and in A ball in South Bend, posting a 2.74 ERA and 1.258 WHIP.  He was striking out guys, and though he was showing promise, his road to the Show had a long way to go.  In fact, as of this writing, he hasn’t thrown a pitch off an MLB mound yet.

Eloy Jimenez was 20 and in High-A ball in Myrtle Beach posting a .271/.351/.490 slash in 172 plate appearances.  This was a decline from his A ball slash of .329/.369/.532 over 464 plate appearances.  That’s where things stood in the middle of 2017.  Just FYI Jimenez broke camp with the White Sox this year and posted a .241/.294/.380 slash before going on the IL.

What they saw was what they got

Meanwhile, Quintana has done precisely what the Cubs needed.  Over three years he’s appeared in 52 starts, posting a 3.86 ERA, a 1.254 WHIP, with 298 1/3 innings pitched.  For a guy who was slotted in 2017 as the fourth starter behind Lester, Arrieta, and Hendricks, and remains in that role today with Lester, Hendricks, and Cole Hamels, he’s provided a low-cost ($10.5 million in 2019), reliable arm, and has been competitive in all but a handful of starts.

Next. Chicago Cubs: Pitching staff quickly gets things turned around. dark

Yes, Jimenez will probably get much better, and Cease is looking good so far at Triple-A.  But for four guys, only one of which has seen just 21 games in the Show, all in all not a bad deal for Quintana.  Oh, and in twelve games he’s all but owned the Brewers with a 2.51 ERA and a ridiculous 0.956 WHIP.

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