Trades this time of year in baseball are not all that uncommon. Although we most closely associate transaction activity with the mid-summer trade deadline period, and then with the heat of the offseason from November to January, there’s actually usually a lot going on at the end of March, some of which results in trades.
It’s just that they typically aren’t the sexiest moves. Instead, you see deals involving fringe roster types or guys out of options (like the rumored Matt Szczur item from yesterday), and deals that spring from the waiver wire.
Major trades are not totally absent, though. Most recently, there was the shocking Craig Kimbrel trade to the Padres on the eve of Opening Day two years ago. (You could argue, by the way, that the Padres wound up getting more for Kimbrel from the Red Sox a year later than they gave up to get him, even if the original trade looked like a terrible idea at the time for a Padres team that was not about to be competitive.)
Will Jose Quintana be the major move this year just before the season starts?
Any trade of that size at this time of year would be a surprise, but Jeff Passan reports that chatter around the game has picked up on the White Sox lefty, with the organization’s scouts all over the back fields in Spring Training looking at youngsters. No deal is in the works yet, but Passan says it could come together at any time if the right price is on the table. The Astros, Braves, and Pirates continue to show interest (the latter of which would have a ridiculous rotation if they pulled off a deal, and could shift the landscape in the NL Central).
Quintana, 28, is under team control for four cheap seasons, and has consistently been excellent for several years running. The acquisition price would be enormous, but it figures that some team will pay it eventually, whether now, the trade deadline, or after this season. The only question is if things drag out too much longer, at what point do the White Sox wonder about keeping Quintana to try to anchor the rotation when their newly-acquired prospect core matriculates to the big leagues? It might not take three or four years for the White Sox to border on competitive, in which case they’d still have Quintana around on a reasonable deal.
… but there’s a lot of risk there for a rebuilding team to hold onto such a valuable asset that *might* still be useful when the team is competitive. Were I a White Sox fan, I’d hope the team wasn’t planning to take that risk, and instead would be designing on getting the best deal for Quintana right now or in July. (Even that has risk, of course, because Quintana could be hurt at any time, or could put together an uncharacteristically crummy first half. The flip side of that is that the market for trades in July tends to be more lucrative, because contenders have already started to sort themselves out, and acquisitions can become incrementally more valuable.)
I’m still watching this whole thing with interest. Quintana is a sufficiently valuable arm that, wherever he goes, it’s going to have ripple effects.
And if he’s traded to the Pirates? That would be especially noteworthy to Cubs fans.