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Jose Quintana stokes trade market

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Strong June — including gem against Yankees — sets stage for active deadline rumor mill

New York Yankees v Chicago White Sox Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

I imagine that MLB teams already do their due diligence on potential trade targets and signings to such an extent that one series can’t change or accelerate a direction all that much.

Even if that’s the case, the White Sox knocking off the Yankees thanks to 1) Jose Quintana throwing a gem and 2) New York’s bullpen collapsing provides plenty of popcorn value as the trade season heats up.

For instance, let’s see how the local papers delivered the give and take. The New York Tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiimes ...

As the Yankees and General Manager Brian Cashman approach the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline with hopes of staying atop the American League East, Quintana, 28, remains a viable target to bolster their rotation, regardless of his historically deceiving numbers.

“Sometimes, for whatever reason, guys’ years just aren’t as good,” Girardi said of Quintana on Tuesday. “Starting pitchers walk a real fine line. That’s the bottom line. He’s got really good stuff.”

... the Daiiiiiily Neeeeeeeeeeeeeews:

The story before then was Quintana's dominance. Bringing the 28-year-old lefty back to the Bronx might be a good idea. The former Yankee farmhand pitched 6.1 shutout innings. He allowed just two hits, walked four and struck out six. Only one of those hits left the infield: Judge's booming double to left-center with two outs in the sixth.

Oh, and the Post:

Can Jose Quintana pitch out of the bullpen?

Check that. How about the Yankees reallocate their farm-system resources toward another White Sox asset, old pal David Robertson?

This Yankees season might just be turning on what had been the biggest strength. Their bullpen is killing them.

Sure, why not? If Tommy Kahnle were able to throw a scoreless eighth, the White Sox had a chance to throw four pitchers who used to belong to the Yankees organization:

  • Quintana (minor league free agent signing)
  • Anthony Swarzak (Yankee reliever in 2016)
  • Kahnle (Yankee fifth-round draft pick, 2010)
  • David Robertson (Yankee draft pick in 2006, reliever 2008-14)

As long as Quintana’s been attainable, it’s been the Yankees and Astros at the head of the hypothetical trades, since his contract helps teams wins now and later. The Yankees in particular might be under some pressure to deal since they’ll have a 40-man roster crunch otherwise.

Bruce Levine, who was The Boy Who Cried Jose Quintana’s Market Is Heating Up during the offseason, said 10 teams watched Quintana pitch against the Yankees. One of them might have been the Braves, who lurked in the discussions for both Quintana and Chris Sale over the winter. They’re not quite in contention — 812 back of Washington in the NL East, eight out of the second wild card — but the Cubs are the only team in between Atlanta and the Rockies.

  • Arizona 50-28
  • Colorado, 47-33,
  • Cubs, 39-38 (612 GB)
  • Braves, 37-39 (8 GB)

That’s not close enough to warrant loading up for the stretch drive, but the lack of competitive National League teams makes it easier to make up that kind of ground. It’s not unrealistic to think the Rockies and/or Brewers hit a wall while the Cubs never find their higher gear, so the Braves can rationalize bolstering their roster now if the pieces will fit next year and beyond, too.

Hence, it makes sense that David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has the Braves still monitoring Quintana’s situation:

The Braves expect to have Freeman back either just before or right after the All-Star break and believe they are in position to remain competitive all summer and into the fall. But they need to bolster their rotation to ease pressure on a productive offense that has to play catch-up too often after a starter puts the team in a hole early.

They have the fifth-highest starters’ ERA in the National League. The Braves have a better record than all of the other eight NL teams with the highest starters’ ERAs except altitude-challenged Colorado (4.56 ERA, 47-32 record).

And O’Brien says the White Sox might still ask for the moon:

The price for either Archer or Quintana, who are both 28, likely would be just as significant now as during the winter, perhaps even higher than during the offseason. Several contending teams, including the Yankees and Red Sox, are interested in adding a top starter. It will going to take multiple prospects and/or young players to acquire either of them.

(Here’s where I should note Ronald Acuna is hitting .324/.378/.482 as a 19-year-old in Double-A.)

Theoretically, Quintana shouldn’t be worth as much as he was in the offseason because he has only 3 12 years of team control remaining instead of four (although I wouldn’t be surprised if teams think the returns for a pitcher diminish after three years out). And while he’s looked great in June, his numbers aren’t all the way back to his usual standards.

Rick Hahn maintained his offseason stance when talking to reporters this week:

“Yes there is an element of competitiveness and impatience involved in this,” Hahn said of wanting to get trades done. “At the end of the day, we get paid to be prudent in our decision-making. We have to make the right decisions. Again, if four or five of these things present themselves in the next couple of weeks, we will be ready to move. If not, then we have to be disciplined enough to wait for the right time.”

But I’m guessing Quintana’s sluggish start gave the White Sox a sense of the danger that lurks in slow-playing the trade much further. Likewise, the postseason might be more tangible to the Yankees than it was over the winter. The gravity of their respective situations could push them more toward the middle, giving the league something else to react to.

Quintana did what he could to make himself appealing. Now, if his White Sox teammates want to bombard a Yankee starter and force the issue further, by all means.