What is the Right Return for Jose Quintana?

A player is worth what other teams will give you.

That’s an old notion that remains true even in today’s MLB trade market that’s flooded with data and statistical analysis. No matter what the numbers say, a player is only worth what other teams are willing to pay.

By all the numbers over the past four seasons, Jose Quintana is a top of the rotation starter on nearly every Major League team. The White Sox are reportedly looking for a return in exchange for Quintana that isn’t too dissimilar from what they received for All Star Game starter Chris Sale. But the Sale trade and other recent examples might prohibit the Sox from getting what they want.

The only way to determine what teams are willing to pay is to look at recent examples. The Red Sox gave up three of their top ten prospects, two of whom were on the Baseball America Top 100 list, to acquire the best pitcher in the American League who also came with an extremely team-friendly contract.

Despite his struggles earlier in the season, Quintana can still be considered a top fifteen starter in the American League and his contract comes with even more team control at an even lower rate than Sale’s. Looking at these contracts will depress even the most optimistic Sox fan, so I suggest you take my word on this one.

Let’s assume these ridiculously underpaid starters’ contracts reflect the value of their talent equally so we’re just comparing Chris Sale and Jose Quintana on their pitching ability. Their WAR on a season by season basis is actually not all that different, with Sale usually coming in around a point higher per season.

But WAR isn’t perfect, and our eyeballs tell us that Sale is on a different level than Quintana. Given what the Sox got for Sale, we can’t assume they’re going to get those two elite level prospects in return for Quintana when this year’s trade deadline rolls around. Yes, teams are usually willing to part with more at the deadline than in the offseason but asking for Clint Frazier and Gleybar Torres is probably not realistic. So you can chalk that “two top prospects” talk up to setting the bar high.

We also have to consider what the teams who could use Quintana have. The perfect trade partner would indeed be the Yankees, as they’re not only contending for a playoff spot already but are absolutely stacked with talent in the minor leagues. They have the ability to outbid any other team for Jose and will likely set the market value in terms of what he’s worth.

It appears that Quintana is going to be dealt sooner than later, so we should expect another top prospect to enter the White Sox organization. After that, we can expect one or two mid-tier prospects that will help stack a minor league system that has been completely turned around in less than a year.

We already have Charlotte Knights games on TV, so my only question is when can we start seeing games televised in Birmingham and Winston-Salem?

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