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White Sox trade rumors: The Yankees are back

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A reunion with Jose Quintana is possible, but nothing imminent

MLB: Chicago White Sox-Media Day Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Jose Quintana is away from White Sox spring training, working with the Colombian team in preparation for his World Baseball Classic start today, so others are left to make news in his absence.

Enter the New York Post, which tossed a new log on the fire with circumstantial evidence. There’s a paragraph in this story that can serve as a wet blanket, but it’s not this one:

The rebuilding White Sox are looking for youth and the Yankees, with one of the best systems in baseball, have it. However, the Yankees won’t trade Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Gleyber Torres, Justus Sheffield or Aaron Judge, and that might take them out of the mix.

The reason the Yankees make sense as a trading partner is that they have plenty else to deal, including a pair of outfielders (Clint Frazier, Blake Rutherford), a starter (James Kaprielian), and a middle infielder whose stock has taken a hit (Jorge Mateo) to name just those in various top-100 lists. That’s also before assuming that every supposedly untradeable player can’t be had. Such surprises can’t be ruled out. I wouldn’t expect the Yankees to include Torres or Sanchez, but the others are a tier or two below.

(Frazier might be harder to get now that he’s assimilated into the Yankee Borg.)

Quintana fits snugly for the Yankees if all this burgeoning talent hits sooner rather than later, and he’ll make a lot more sense next year if and when Masahiro Tanaka opts out of his contract. (It doesn’t suck to be a left-handed pitcher in Yankee Stadium, either.)

Yet despite the mutual interests, the lede of this story makes me wonder if any of this is based on new activity and interest, or whether it’s just an overzealous interpretation of due diligence:

TAMPA — Since a White Sox scout has been a constant figure at the Yankees’ exhibition games to evaluate talent, the industry buzz is the White Sox have targeted the Yankees as a possible trade partner if they decide to move left-handed starter Jose Quintana.

A White Sox scout should be at Yankees games because of all the sense they make, but that could apply just as much to in-season deals as it does in the spring. The same can be said with regards to the Astros.

Maybe it was just White Sox Day at the Post, because Joel Sherman talked to Rick Hahn about the rebuilding effort’s lull in a separate story, where this is said:

However, opposing executives say Hahn did so well in his two bigger winter deals by, particularly, landing Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech and Yoan Moncada that he is shooting too high now, wanting to mimic the success — particularly when it comes in discussions involving Quintana.

I’ve seen this mentioned a few times, which has always struck me as a weak debate stance in the prospects arena, especially if you take a second to remember previous bouts of hyperventilation about future-for-present deals (not Jeremy Reed!). It’s difficult to square the “heist” claims against the concept of TINSTAAPP. Hahn acquired a quantity of quality, but five of the seven prospects acquired for Chris Sale and Adam Eaton are pitching prospects, which seems like an appropriate amount of insulation against failure rate.

Besides a negotiating tactic, I think that “did-too-well” sentiment might be a reflection of the uniqueness of the White Sox’ situation. They had enough talent with which to make a legit run at contending, although it would’ve required sudden competence in areas the White Sox faltered time and time again. Instead, they chose to make that talent available all at the same time.

Top talent at team-friendly costs should yield an equally impressive return, but perhaps the impact of the first two has rattled the baseball world out of its context, especially when few other teams are moving so boldly. In the form of a three-act play:

Act I

White Sox: Here’s a great player on a great contract.
Red Sox: Here’s a great haul of prospects.
Chorus: Great!

Act II

White Sox: Here’s a great player on a great contract.
Nationals: Here’s a great haul of prospects.
Chorus: Great.

Act III

White Sox: Here’s a great player on a great contract.
Chorus: Great Caesar’s ghost, slow your roll.

In a vacuum, Act I or Act II should always be the result, because that’s the whole concept of these trades. In practice, it wouldn’t surprise me if connecting on seismic deals with the executives who like to push it (Dave Dombrowski and Mike Rizzo) warped the view for teams with more conservative mindsets.

Likewise, in theory, the White Sox should wait until the market regains its bearings, because Quintana won’t lose much value between now and the deadline. In practice, situations like Sonny Gray can happen.

I don’t blame the White Sox for holding their ground, but we’re learning how the league reacts when a noticeable number of prospects all head in the same direction. There may be other such lessons to learn from this great experiment, although I don’t know how many clubs will able to apply them. Teams with that many great assets are usually able to generate more success with them.