Theo delivers again as Cubs get huge boost in shocking Jose Quintana trade with White Sox

Theo delivers again as Cubs get huge boost in shocking Jose Quintana trade with White Sox

Cubs president Theo Epstein didn't hide his frustrations with an underachieving team hovering around .500, subtly calling out manager Joe Maddon in on-the-record group interviews, saying how the clubhouse didn't play with enough edge and the answers would realistically have to come from the 25 guys already in the room.

But "The World's Greatest Leader" — Fortune magazine's call — doesn't view things in absolutes. Epstein is always thinking three-dimensionally, analyzing the situation from 30,000 feet and never ruling anything out. Even when it looked like the organization-wide Cubbie envy would stop the White Sox from dealing one of their success stories to the North Side.

In a season where Epstein had already tried so many different forms of shock therapy with the defending World Series champs, the Cubs acquired Jose Quintana in Thursday's stunning crosstown trade with the White Sox, trying to jumpstart a 43-45 team out of the All-Star break while still building their rotation for the future.

This is the price for a frontline starter, even one with a career losing record (50-54) and a 4.49 ERA this season: stud outfielder Eloy Jimenez; 100-mph right-hander Dylan Cease; plus Class-A infielders Matt Rose and Bryant Flete.

But all those prospects are years away from Wrigley Field, if they ever make it at all. Even Jimenez, a blue-chip talent with the size, approach and right-handed swing that reminded the Cubs of a young Kris Bryant, hadn't made it to the Double-A level yet.

Quintana alone won't fix the Cubs. It's not like he will help them hit with runners in scoring position or tighten up the defense or heal all the nagging injuries that have contributed to the win-one, lose-one inconsistencies.

This does jolt the clubhouse, change the vibe around the team and give the 2017 Cubs an All-Star level pitcher for 14-ish starts.

[MORE: Why the Quintana trade makes perfect sense for everybody involved]

This is also insurance against Jake Arrieta and John Lackey leaving after this season. The Cubs dreaded the idea of having to replace at least 40 percent of their rotation this winter, knowing agents and other teams would sense the desperation.

As an added bonus, the Cubs will keep Quintana away from the Milwaukee Brewers, the first-place team they trail by 5.5 games in a National League Central race that just got a lot more interesting.

Ultimately, this is still a play for the future, with Quintana under club control through 2020 and the Cubs betting on his medical outlook and sturdy, reliable performance (at least 32 starts and 200 innings in each of the last four seasons).

Jimenez and Cease might become stars on the South Side as the White Sox methodically undergo a full-scale rebuild. But the Cubs are dealing from a surplus of position players and operating under the belief that young pitching goes poof.

The Cubs used money saved from Kyle Schwarber's below-slot deal in the 2014 draft to give Cease a seven-figure bonus and supervise his recovery from Tommy John surgery, hoping the volume/risk-management approach would yield some trade chips and/or the homegrown starting pitcher that has eluded the Epstein administration.

It's the same playbook the Cubs used in last summer's blockbuster "If not now, when?" trade with the New York Yankees for Aroldis Chapman. And the winter-meetings deal with the Kansas City Royals for All-Star closer Wade Davis. Except Quintana is viewed as a long-term building block for the next great team in Wrigleyville, not a mercenary or a one-year guarantee.

The rush of adrenaline will eventually wear off after Quintana's arrival, and the Cubs will find out if those answers really will come from within and when this World Series hangover will finally end.

Joe Maddon received a first-place vote for NL Manager of the Year


Joe Maddon received a first-place vote for NL Manager of the Year

Joe Maddon's future beyond 2019 remains unclear, but his 2018 performance was good enough in someone's eyes to warrant a first-place vote in NL Manager of the Year voting.

Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker won the award, receiving 17 of the 30 first-place votes in the process. Meanwhile, Maddon also added a third-place vote to finish fifth overall, behind Milwaukee's Craig Counsell, Colorado's Bud Black and St. Louis' Mike Shildt.

Members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America vote for the award and two representatives from each market vote, adding up to the 30 voters (see the full list of 2018 NL voters here). Jayson Stark tweeted out that it was in fact 670 The Score's Bruce Levine who voted for Maddon with a hometown pick.

A large number of Cubs fans are disappointed that 2018 was the worst postseason run the team has had in the current run of four straight playoff appearances, but that doesn't factor into the voting. Maddon led the Cubs to 95 wins, second best in the league to the Brewers after Milwaukee won the NL Central playoff at Wrigley Field. He did so while Yu Darvish pitched only 40 innings, Kris Bryant was limited to 102 games and had his worst season in the majors and closer Brandon Morrow didn't pitch after July 15.

That is a decent argument to make for Maddon, but expectations have never been higher on the North Side and Theo Epstein saying the Cubs won't renew his contract this offseason isn't the highest vote of confidence.

Maddon's future with the Cubs will be a talking point until he either leaves or gets a new contract, but he has one believer in Chicago.

Hot Stove: AJ Pollock could be the player to fill the Cubs needs


Hot Stove: AJ Pollock could be the player to fill the Cubs needs

Six players turned down qualifying offers in baseball, and they are quality names in LHP Patrick Corbin, C Yasmani Grandal, OF Bryce Harper, LHP Dallas Keuchel, reliever Craig Kimbrel and OF A.J. Pollock. It’s the last name that piqued the interest of Cubs Insider Tony Andracki, who told me on our Hot Stove show on Facebook Live Tuesday at 12:30, that while all eyes are on Harper, Pollock is a player who could fit the Cubs’ needs. 

“The interesting name is A.J. Pollock, depending what the market is for him, because he’s a guy that when he’s able to stay healthy, and he hasn’t really been healthy for about five years now, but when he’s able to stay healthy, he’s a dynamic player who would really shake up that offense, and he’s also a leadoff hitter,” Andracki said. “The Cubs need a stable leadoff hitter and he’s a guy they could look at.”

Hot Stove

Time for your weekly dose of HOT STOVE! 1. The White Sox are shopping Avi make room for Bryce Harper? 2. BIGGEST Takeaways from the GM Meetings. 3. Will we be celebrating an Eloy 'Rookie of the Year Award' after next season?

Posted by NBC Sports Chicago on Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Pollock has played in only 469 games over the last five seasons. He played 113 in 2018, and batted .257 with 21 home runs and 65 RBI, and broke his thumb in May. His all-star season was in 2015, when he played in 157 games, hit .315, had 20 home runs and 76 RBI. Pollock turns 31 on December 5. 

If the Cubs were to sign Pollock in the current circumstances, they would have to give up their pick after Competitive Balance Round B in the June 2019 First-year player draft, and $500,000 of their international bonus pool money. Under the previous collective bargaining agreement, a team signing a player who turned down a qualifying offer would have to give up a supplemental first-round draft pick.