How Valuable Is Jose Quintana?
After trading All-Star starting pitcher Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox for Yoan Moncada (and three other prospects), the Chicago White Sox showed their intentions moving forward -- a complete rebuild, starting from the top.
While Sale was their biggest piece, a name which should be garnering as much attention is starting pitcher Jose Quintana, who could be a very helpful addition to any team in baseball. If the White Sox put the lefty on the block, which is exactly the case according to the rumor mill, what could they get for him?
Let's check it out.
A Little History
Quintana had a rough start to his career, but he's bounced back nicely. Originally signed in 2006 by the New York Mets out of his native Colombia, Quintana quickly failed a drug test, was suspended and subsequently released by the Mets in 2007 before he ever made a name for himself in the organization.
He then spent 2008 through 2011 with the New York Yankees before being released after failing to advance past High-A ball. He was signed by the White Sox in 2012, and everything click. Quintana pitched in nine games (nine starts) in Double-A before being promoted to the big leagues, and he's never looked back.
In 2012, Quintana was solid but unspectacular, starting in 22 of his 25 appearances. He posted a 3.76 ERA and 4.23 FIP, racking up 1.6 fWAR, per Fangraphs. He also had a paltry 14.3% strikeout rate and 7.4% walk rate. However, he really came into his own in 2013.
This 2013 campaign saw him post a 3.51 ERA, 3.82 FIP and 3.5 fWAR. His strikeout rate jumped up to 19.7%, and his walk rate went down to 6.7%.
He continued to improve in 2014, which would turn out to be a career-best season him. Quintana posted a 3.32 ERA, 2.81 FIP and 5.1 fWAR, while increasing his strikeout rate again, this time to 21.5%, and decreasing his walk rate to 6.3%. To put his season into perspective, his 2.81 FIP ranked 10th among all starters in 2014, higher than the likes of Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke and Madison Bumgarner -- just to name a few.
He followed up his excellent 2014 season with great performances in 2015 and 2016. In 2015, he had a 3.36 ERA, 3.18 FIP and 4.8 fWAR. His strikeout rate dipped slightly to 20.5%, but his walk rate dipped, as well, down to 5.0%. He posted a 3.20 ERA, 3.56 FIP and 4.8 fWAR in 2016, as well as a 21.6% strikeout rate and 6.0% walk rate.
Since the 2013 season, the year he became a core starter for the White Sox, Quintana has been one of baseball's better pitchers, usually flying under the radar, which is mostly due to the state of the White Sox rather than anything in Quintana's control. During that time, the White Sox have put up win totals of 63, 73, 76, and 78; Quintana has done well to have a 46-46 record in his career on teams that poor.
How He Stacks Up
Since 2013, Quintana's 3.34 FIP is 26th highest among all starters, and his 18.1 fWAR is sixth-highest; he has been one of the most valuable starting pitchers since 2013, earning a higher fWAR than Bumgarner, Jake Arrieta, Greinke and Adam Wainwright among others.
His strikeout numbers are not particularly impressive in that time frame as his 20.85% strikeout rate is tied with Jason Hammel and Tim Lincecum for 58th-highest. His 6.0% walk rate is his tied with 40th-highest with Marcus Stroman. While the last two numbers do not sound particularly excellent, it is important to note that there are 153 qualified starting pitchers in that period; he is putting up numbers better than 100 pitchers -- sometimes many more -- in these categories.
A Valuable Commodity
Quintana is also an absolute workhorse, throwing at least 200 innings and making 32 or more starts in each season since 2013. With pitchers, especially starting pitchers, being one of the biggest injury concerns in baseball, having someone who can be counted on to give a team 30 starts and 200 good innings is an important commodity.
Quintana is very similar to Johnny Cueto -- they give you top-of-the-line performance (Quintana has a 3.47 career FIP, Cueto 3.70), with average strikeout rates and good walk rates (Quintana has a career strikeout rate of 19.9 and a walk rate of 6.2, while Cueto has a 20.3% strikeout rate and a 6.7% walk rate) while being a good bet for 200 innings.
One of the biggest selling points for Quintana is his contract. Prior to his monster 2014 campaign, he signed a five year, $21 million extension, which included option years for 2019 and 2020 at $10.5 million and $11.5 million, respectively (as well as a lowly $1 million buyout for either year). As you can see by looking at Cueto's deal, this is an absolute steal of a contract for a good starting pitcher in today's market.
Jose Quintana is no Chris Sale, but that is more of a compliment to Sale's talent than an insult to Quintana's. The package they get, if they do indeed move him, may not be too far off from what they got for Sale because of Quintana's team-friendly contract, although Sale has a pretty nice contract, too. The White Sox should -- and probably are -- asking for top prospects in return for Quintana.
Quintana has been one of baseball's better pitchers since 2013, and he has been a pillar of consistency and health. On top of that, the 27-year old is on a bargain of a contract, making $7 million this season and $8.85 million in 2018, before two reasonable options can be picked up, which would put him on the market at 31 years of age in 2020. So all of that affordable team control for the a pitcher with the sixth-highest fWAR among starting pitchers since 2013 will -- deservedly so -- cost a team some front-line talent from their prospect pool.