Just a week after Theo Epstein publicly stated the Cubs would rely on internal options to try to turn around their season, the team pulled off what may very well turn out to be the biggest deal of the trade deadline period. The Cubs on Thursday traded their two top prospects, outfielder Eloy Jimenez and righthander Dylan Cease, along with first baseman Matt Rose and middle infielder Bryant Flete to the White Sox in exchange for lefthander Jose Quintana.
Jimenez ranked No. 5 and Cease ranked No. 83 in the BA Midseason Top 100 Prospects update.
This is the second consecutive year the Cubs made a bold move in July. Last year they traded their No. 1 prospect, shortstop Gleyber Torres, along with three others to land closer Aroldis Chapman. Chapman ended up being a key piece of the Cubs first World Series championship in more than a century.
This year they acted quickly again, landing one of the best starting pitchers on the market. Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta have struggled to match their 2016 performances, but the Cubs’ biggest problem has been the back of its rotation. Now they field a potential postseason rotation of Lester, Quintana, Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks with Eddie Butler and John Lackey options to step in as well.
For the White Sox, this trade is yet another step in a quick and effective tear-down and rebuild. The White Sox now have seven of the Top 100 prospects in baseball. Only one of them, outfielder Luis Robert, was originally signed by the organization. The other six (Yoan Moncada, Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and Cease) have been acquired in trades in the past eight months. And Chicago is likely not done. Todd Frazier and David Robertson could net more prospects in the next couple of weeks.
But right now, the White Sox have rebuilt their farm system into one of the best in the game. While they lack the overall prospect depth of the Yankees, Braves or Padres, they are the only team with two of the top five prospects in the game. With a system where Zack Burdi, Zack Collins, Jake Burger and Alec Hansen are fighting to crack the team’s Top 10, there’s solid depth as well.
WHITE SOX ACQUIRE
Eloy Jimenez, OF
Jimenez was the top prospect in the 2013 international signing period and has lived up to those lofty expectations. He is among the best hitting prospects in the minors, combining plus to plus-plus power potential with advanced hittability that should allow him to hit for high average and big power. He ranks fifth on the updated Top 100 Prospects largely because the hitters above him have more defensive value. Jimenez does not run well enough to be a center fielder or throw well enough to be a right fielder, but he can mash. He has present strength, but scouts believe he will continue to add to it as he fills out his already large frame.
“He’s an impact bat, period,” a scout told Baseball America. “He’s a middle-of-the-order hitter.”
Jimenez has been slowed this spring by a hamstring injury. To keep him on the field, the Cubs have been cautious, giving him plenty of days as a designated hitter and giving him off days when the field is soggy.
|Dylan Cease, RHP
Cease slipped to the sixth round in the 2014 draft because he was sidelined by an elbow injury that eventually required Tommy John surgery, but the Cubs paid him like a second-round pick ($1.5 million) because of his potential.
Cease was the hardest-throwing righthander in the Cubs’ organization at the time of the trade. Now he joins an organization where he will have plenty of competition for that title. Cease has reached 100 mph when he wants to and sits 94-97 with excellent sink on his fastball and a power 12-to-6 curveball that gives him a second plus pitch. His changeup is further away and he’ll have to continue to improve his control and command. He missed time this year with an ankle injury and he had Tommy John surgery in 2015, but if he can develop durability, he has the makings of a front-line starter.
|Bryant Flete, 2B/SS
Flete signed with the Cubs in 2012 as a 19-year-old out of Venezuela, making him older than the average international prospect. Because of that, he’s generally been old for the level he’s played at throughout his career. He has hit at Myrtle Beach this year and shows a decent all-fields, line drive approach. He turns the double play well at second base, but as a 24-year-old, it’s time to see if he can handle the upper levels of the minors.
|Matt Rose, 1B
Rose, an 11th-round pick in 2015 out of Georgia State, is a slugger with 70-grade raw power and the ability to show solid productive power on a regular basis. A third baseman with limited mobility but a great arm in college, he’s moved to first base as a pro. He has struggled to hit for average and posted low on-base percentages throughout his career. His power makes him an interesting flier as a second-tier prospect in the deal.
Jose Quintana, lhp
Quintana, famously let go as a minor league free agent by both the Mets and Yankees, has blossomed into a sturdy, durable lefthander. He’s still just 28 and has made at least 32 starts and pitched 200 innings each of the past four seasons. This season, Quintana is 4-8 with a 4.49 ERA in 18 starts for the White Sox, but has a 2.70 ERA in the past seven starts. As good as Quintana has been, he’s affordable and controlled through 2020. Quintana is under contract through 2020, earning $8.85 million, $10.5 million and $11.5 million the next three seasons.