According to Buster Olney, the Pittsburgh Pirates have worked hard to try to acquire left-handed starter Jose Quintana from the Chicago White Sox. The 27-year-old has two years left on his contract, followed by two team options which total $37.850M.
The Pirates have worked hard to try to make a trade for Jose Quintana, whose modest contract is perfect for their budget size.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 21, 2016
Quintana has been a workhorse since making his Major League debut in early May of 2012. He threw 136.1 innings that season, followed by four straight seasons of 200 or more innings. His highest ERA was 3.76 in his rookie season and his overall 3.71 ERA is in line with his 3.74 FIP over that time. In 2016, he set career bests with 208 innings, 181 strikeouts and a 1.16 WHIP. That earned him his first All-Star appearances and he finished tenth in the AL Cy Young voting. Quintana’s fWAR the last three years has been 5.1, 4.8, and 4.8.
UPDATE 8:31 AM: Analysis from Tim Williams…
Before digging deep into the trade value numbers, I knew that Quintana’s value would be several pages removed from the 2017 Prospect Guide. I used a 4.8 fWAR for each upcoming season, since that’s what he had in each of the last two years. His contract breaks down as $6 M in 2017, $8.8 M in 2018, and $10.5 M options in 2019 and 2020, which would both be easy decisions if he continues to pitch this well. In summary, you’ve got a guy who is worth about a win less than Chris Sale, on a very reasonable contract for the next four years, and only two years and $15.8 M guaranteed.
Sale’s trade value was $99.4 M by my calculations. Quintana’s is higher at $118.6 M. Sale is the better pitcher, but you get one more year of Quintana, and he’d actually cost $2.2 M less than Sale over the life of their deals. Thus, the higher trade value.
The White Sox got a haul for Sale, led by Yoan Moncada, who is the top prospect in baseball. They also got right-handed pitcher Michael Kopech, who is a top 50 prospect. Rounding out the trade, they received outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe, who is in their top ten prospects and could be considered a Grade B hitter, and right-handed pitcher Victor Diaz, who is a young Grade C pitcher. That package comes out to a little over $70 M in trade value, although it’s difficult to evaluate Moncada, since he’s so close to the majors, and putting him in the 1-10 hitters tier ($42 M in trade value) might undervalue that he’s at the very top of that tier. But let’s just go with the $70 M trade value. That value, compared to Sale’s $99.4 M value, would be the same as an $84.4 M value for Quintana.
So what does $84.4 M look like in prospects? Before we start, I want to throw out the disclaimer that I will be mentioning specific names here as an example, but in no way does this mean the Pirates have discussed these players, or are discussing these players. So if you see someone saying that the Pirates are offering A, B, and C for Quintana, and referencing this article, you will know that person just skipped over this disclaimer.
First of all, it will be impossible for the Pirates to acquire Quintana without having to deal at least one of their top five prospects, and possibly two of them. The guy that I think would make the most sense to start a package around would be Tyler Glasnow. I still think he has a good upside, but I don’t think he’s going to be like Jameson Taillon where he settles down right away to be a productive MLB starter. I’d trade six years of Glasnow to get four years of Quintana, since four years of Quintana’s production is what you’d hope to get from Glasnow, when considering injury possibilities and a slower adjustment.
Glasnow would only be worth $26.7 M though as a top ten pitching prospect. So the Pirates would have to find value elsewhere to add to this deal.
The other top prospects in the system are Mitch Keller on the pitching side, and Austin Meadows, Josh Bell, and Kevin Newman on the hitting side, with Newman a tier below the other hitters. I personally wouldn’t deal Keller at the moment, since I don’t think he’s come close to his highest value, and you’re probably going to have to deal more prospects to make up for the lower value he has right now. But a decision between Meadows, Bell, and Newman impacts future teams, and that has to be considered.
Meadows is the guy set to take over for Andrew McCutchen, and the Pirates don’t really have a strong alternative in the upper levels, or anywhere throughout the system. They have a few guys who could be average starters in the majors, but they don’t have that potential impact hitter like they do with Meadows. That said, if they keep McCutchen for the next two years, then losing Meadows is a 2019 problem.
Bell is set as the first baseman going forward, but could also play outfield. The problem is that the defense would be bad in either spot. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of his offense yet, which is why I think he can be a 2-3 WAR player, even with poor defense. He might have more value in the AL with the DH. I think it would actually be easier to replace Bell, since they’ve got David Freese for the next few years, and he’s been consistently around a 2 fWAR the past few seasons, while showing good defense in his move to first last year. They also have a few first base options in the minors, led by 2016 first round pick Will Craig, who is a third baseman now, but could be moved to first sooner if needed.
Newman would have a lower trade value than the other two. He’s a guy who will take over at shortstop for Jordy Mercer when he’s ready, and could provide an upgrade at the position, with more offense and the chance for the same defense. But I think that Newman would be in the same boat as Keller, where you’d have to deal another prospect to make it work. Basically, the trade values of Newman and Keller combined would be similar to Bell alone.
As for players on the current roster like Tony Watson or Andrew McCutchen, I don’t think they’d have any value to the rebuilding White Sox. They’d only factor in if there was a third team involved to take those players and offer prospects or young players that the White Sox would want.
My thought is that a Glasnow/Bell package would make the most sense, and could be a good starting point. That combo would be worth about $60-70 M in trade value. The Pirates would probably have to add about two more players to such a deal, but at that point they’d be dealing from plenty of depth outside of the top five. Again, I don’t know who the Pirates have discussed, or if they share my opinion on who could be easily moved in the top five. What I do know is that Quintana would require at least one of those five to be moved, and probably two of them. I also know that the Pirates have the prospects to make a deal, and have the depth to make such a move without losing much in the short-term or the long-term.
As for Quintana, I think he’d be the best pickup the Pirates could make this offseason for their rotation, and I’m saying that as a big fan of Chris Archer. I think he’d slot in at the top of the rotation with Gerrit Cole, making Jameson Taillon a very good number three option. If Taillon works out as expected, then the Pirates would be led by three guys who could be number one or number two starters, and suddenly the rotation would look pretty strong. Add in all of the depth out of Indianapolis, and you’ve got a strong group that would be together for the next three seasons, until Cole is a free agent. And by then, you might have Mitch Keller in the mix.
From a budget standpoint, Quintana would currently put the Pirates around $100 M, which means they could theoretically add him and keep Tony Watson. I’d still try to move Antonio Bastardo’s contract and use that money on some bench depth, with a few potential values to be had in this market. The point is that Quintana would give the Pirates a top of the rotation pitcher and would cost less than three years of Ivan Nova, with a much lower cost up front. This would allow the Pirates to do a lot more to compete with their roster, under their budget limits.