Cubs

Why Cubs could look to move José Quintana, a rumored potential trade candidate

Why Cubs could look to move José Quintana, a rumored potential trade candidate

Sunday, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported upwards of seven teams are still seeking starting pitching this winter, naming those “heard” to be on the market and those who “speculatively” could be.

Cubs starter José Quintana fell into Heyman’s second category. This isn’t to say Quintana is definitively on the market, but with Heyman’s speculation in mind, the Cubs dealing the 30-year-old lefty is realistic.

The Cubs picked up Quintana’s $11.5 million option for 2020 — the last year of his contract. That salary is very reasonable for a durable arm (30+ starts in seven straight seasons), but Quintana hasn’t been the same pitcher on the North Side as he was with the crosstown White Sox from 2012-17.

-Quintana with White Sox: 172 games (169 starts), 3.51 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 3.53 FIP
-Quintana with Cubs: 78 games (77 starts), 4.23 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 3.95 FIP

Granted, Quintana hasn’t been a bust with the Cubs, but he’s been up-and-down, showing flashes of brilliance (2.02 ERA in six August starts last season) while also struggling immensely (11.09 ERA in five September starts).

The Cubs could do a lot worse than Quintana as their fourth starter. However, based on their lack of activity in free agency so far this offseason, it’s evident they’re looking to get under MLB’s $208 million luxury tax threshold for 2020.

Spotrac projects the Cubs’ 2020 payroll to be a little more than $211 million. They’ll have to shed about $4 million to get under the threshold — more to address other needs on the roster.

Trading Quintana would get the Cubs' payroll under $208 million. It’d also open up another hole on the roster, as they’d have to replace him in the rotation. They could face that reality a year from now anyway, though.

Quintana will be 32 in 2021, and considering how he’s fared with the Cubs, they may not seek an extension with him. If that’s the case, why not move Quintana this winter to a) clear payroll and b) get something in return before they let him walk as a free agent?

Perhaps the Cubs can address one of their other roster needs — bullpen, center field/second base upgrade — in a Quintana deal. They won’t be offered elite prospects, but maybe they can net a solid player to boost the farm system.

Moving Quintana also would allow the Cubs to give Adbert Alzolay and/or Alec Mills a chance to take hold of a rotation spot next season. With Quintana on the roster, only one rotation spot is vacant — and the Cubs may opt to fill it with Tyler Chatwood. At some point, the Cubs have to give their young arms a chance in the rotation.

The Cubs must weigh short-term success vs. the long-term outlook of the franchise this offseason. If Quintana isn’t in their plans after 2020, trading him now would make a lot of sense.

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Report: Nationals declined to meet Cubs' asking price in multiple Kris Bryant trade packages

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USA TODAY

Report: Nationals declined to meet Cubs' asking price in multiple Kris Bryant trade packages

Kris Bryant was a fixture of trade rumors all offseason, with the Nationals frequently mentioned as a potential suitor. Washington lost third baseman Anthony Rendon in free agency, making them a logical candidate to acquire the Cubs third baseman.

A deal obviously never came to fruition, and Bryant said he expects to be with the Cubs through the trade deadline. One reason a Cubs-Nationals deal specifically didn’t occur, according to MLB Network's Jon Heyman, is because Washington wouldn't match the Cubs' asking price in multiple trade scenarios.

Heyman reported in December the Nationals "love" Bryant but noted their unwillingness to part with Victor Robles. Considering the Cubs' undefined center field position, Robles, one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball and an up-and-coming bat, made a ton of sense as the centerpiece to a potential Bryant trade. 

Carter Kieboom, one of the top prospects in baseball, was another intriguing target for the Cubs. The 22-year-old shortstop can also play second and third base and could've replaced Bryant as the Cubs' starter at the hot corner. Washington's unwillingness to part with either player explains why talks between the two sides went "nowhere," even after Bryant's grievance case was settled last month. 

Bryant's future with the team is still somewhat up-in-the-air in the long-term, but we know the Cubs won't trade him for less than fair value. 

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David Ross names first three probable starting pitchers for spring training games

David Ross names first three probable starting pitchers for spring training games

David Ross is wasting no time when it comes to the competition for the Cubs’ fifth rotation spot.

Alec Mills, Tyler Chatwood and Adbert Alzolay will start the Cubs’ first three spring training games, Ross told reporters in Arizona on Thursday. The three are competing for Cole Hamels' vacated rotation spot, with Colin Rea being an outside candidate.

Chatwood is the favorite to win the job — Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy suggested as much last week. The 30-year-old infamously struggled with his command as a starter in 2018 and was removed from the rotation by season’s end. He bounced back in 2019, working as a long reliever and occasional spot starter.

2018: 5.30 ERA, 8.25 BB/9, 19.6 BB%, 95 BB in 103 2/3 IP
2019: 3.76 ERA, 4.34 BB/9, 11.4 BB%, 37 BB in 76 2/3 IP

Mills impressed in limited big-league action last season, sporting a 2.75 ERA (4.19 FIP) in nine games (4 starts). He stepped up big last September in place of an ailing Hamels, tossing 4 2/3 shutout innings in a heartbreaking loss against the Cardinals.

Alzolay made four appearances last season with mixed results in his two starts:

June 25: 4 2/3 IP, 1 H, 1 R/1 ER, 4 BB/4K
July 1: 2 2/3 IP, 10 H, 7 R/7 ER, 1 BB/3K

The 24-year-old missed most of the 2018 minor-league season with a lat strain and his career-high for innings is 120 1/3 (2016). Alzolay views himself as a starting pitcher but wants to help the team any way he can. He also admitted he could have an innings limit, but it depends on how his body feels.

“2018, I got hurt and then last year — including stand up games and all that — I probably got 200 innings,” Alzolay said last month. “Probably won’t throw more than [that in 2020]. Probably [have some limitations]. We’ll see. To me, if I’m feeling good, I feel great and I can keep going, I will.

“My first goal is stay healthy the whole time from here until October. And then just help the team in whatever they need me to do. That’s my whole goal this year.”

Even if Chatwood wins the rotation spot, Mills and Alzolay could make the Opening Day roster as relievers, and make at least a few starts this season. Alzolay has minor-league options remaining, so he could also start the year in Triple-A Iowa's rotation.

Mills is out of minor-league options, so he'd be the leading candidate to fill Chatwood's role in the bullpen.

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