It’s not a conversation yet. You know how baseball works. As soon as you start thinking a couple weeks ahead, everything changes and totally disrupts the conversation you thought you were having. This year especially.
Jose Quintana is headed for a couple inning simulated game at South Bend on Thursday, and if that goes well, he’ll likely get in another couple outings like that before the Cubs think about activating him. That is to say, we’re still a good ways away, realistically, from the Cubs having to think about what they want to do with their rotation upon Quintana’s return from his pre-season thumb injury.
But that’s a conversation that is coming, given how well Alec Mills has performed through his first two starts. And it sounds like the Cubs are already prepared for the *possibility* that Quintana might not come back to an open rotation spot:
Hottovy: Quintana on target for 2-inning sim game Thursday. Will probably get one more "start" after that before Cubs decide next step. Team wants to keep monitoring how MLB rotation is rolling, especially Alec Mills.
Sounds like moving Q to bullpen isn't out of the question.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 5, 2020
It remains possible that someone else gets hurt. Or tests positive for COVID-19. Or has a couple disastrous outings. But what the Cubs have to at least start thinking about is the possibility that Quintana could be ready to throw competitive innings – though not stretched out – very soon. If that happens, then you might see a win-win situation by bringing Quintana into the bullpen: it keeps the current rotation as is, which is going very well, and adds a much-needed lefty to the bullpen. They’ve gotta start getting ready to have this conversation with guys, so to speak.
You could debate whether Quintana will have success in the bullpen (we don’t know if he’s righted the ship from some very ugly times late last year, we don’t know if his thumb injury will impact his performance, we don’t know whether going to just four-seamer/curveball will actually improve his effectiveness, etc.). But it’s hard to argue that, on paper, he’s not a better multi-inning lefty option out of the pen than anyone else currently available to the Cubs. The options are limited right now. Indeed, the only lefties in the pen right now are Kyle Ryan (who might be having serious issues), Justin Steele (who hasn’t pitched above AA), and Rex Brothers (who may not have big-league-caliber control).
Throw in the fact that in this shortened, weird season, you can rightly tell Quintana that him moving to the bullpen right now is a flukey thing, and not a reflection of the team’s perception of him (in his walk year) … and this all could work.
Let’s wait to see how he does tomorrow in South Bend, because that might start answering a lot of questions. But for now, I like that the Cubs appear to at least be considering this possibility.