Without question, the White Sox would like to trade Jose Quintana before the start of the 2017 regular season.
As much as it would pain them to trade away another outstanding player, completing a deal represents another major step in the direction of a rebuild. Not only would the move fall in line with the team's current plans, trading the All-Star pitcher before Opening Day also relieves the White Sox of any potential risk that could devalue their outstanding asset.
Even though the latest midweek rumor — the Texas Rangers have "increased their pursuit" of Quintana, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale — has already been downplayed, interest in the left-hander has remained strong throughout the offseason. However, so has the resolve of Rick Hahn, who refuses to budge on Quintana's value. As much as the White Sox general manager wants to strike again, he doesn't plan to budge on demands for Quintana.
"The price isn't going to be lowered unless it serves the greater good of advancing what we're trying to accomplish," Hahn said last Friday on SportsTalkLive. "The only way we're going to move what we feel is an appropriate value on any of our players, especially premium assets who have been the most rumored in recent weeks, is if there's some sort of injury or underperformance or the contractual control significantly changes, like a year from now for example, and therefore the value of what we're trading has changed.
"But based upon what we feel our current players are worth, based on their recent performance, health and control going forward, we're not going to compromise on this."
Hahn knows he still has the best hand and hasn't wavered.
He was in a similar spot two months ago with Chris Sale and Adam Eaton and leveraged them into seven prospects, including four elites in Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech and Reynaldo Lopez. The belief is a trade for Quintana, a first-time All Star in 2016 who produced 18.2 f-WAR from 2013 to 2016, would net something between the two previous deals, which means the White Sox want two elite prospects and a very good third player.
While talks between the White Sox and Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates and a variety of other teams have yielded a number of interesting ideas, the clubs haven't been able to put the finishing touches on any of them.
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Going back to December, Hahn has publicly expressed desire to get as many deals done as possible. But if there's any frustration from a lack of trades since, Hahn has shown no indication he's ready to back down.
And he shouldn't, either.
With a combination of outstanding results on the field and an exceptional contract — the deal potentially has four years left for $36.85 million — Quintana is the best pitcher readily available now, and that should hold true again at the Aug. 1 nonwaiver trade deadline.
The White Sox certainly would take on more risk the longer they hang on to Quintana as an injury or poor performance could lurk right around the corner. But it's a risk they'll take for several reasons.
First, Quintana is the team's best remaining trade chip, a chance to further improve an already-strong farm system. The team has some nice assets behind Quintana, but he's easily a notch above the rest.
Quintana is also under contract long enough that he likely would have plenty of time to return from a lengthy injury to rebuild his value.
And, because he's under contract for so long, the White Sox hypothetically could also be ready to compete again before Quintana hits free agency. At SoxFest last weekend, Hahn discussed the possibility of spending on free agents in the next few seasons, an indication the White Sox might not think they need a lengthy rebuild. If they kept Quintana — who says he'd like to stay — there's hope within the organization he'd potentially stay with the club beyond 2020.
And even if all of it is posturing and they hold on to Quintana until next offseason, the White Sox could still receive considerable value for him, though Hahn indicated the price would likely change some.
Still, unless they get what they want, Hahn said the White Sox would hold steady.
"We're not going to force that process because of my impatience or because of (Jerry Reinsdorf) or (Kenny Williams') desire to move this along more quickly," Hahn said. "It's got to be about getting value. We held for the right price on Chris. We held for the right price on Adam. We're very pleased with how those deals went. And if there's other subsequent deals between now and the deadline or next offseason, it's going to be we feel we got value for similar type players."