By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — As the sweepstakes for White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana continue, the latest is that the New York Yankees have expanded their trade talks with Chicago, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported Tuesday.
In addition to Quintana, the Yankees are also interested in re-acquiring closer David Robertson in a bigger deal that would include more prospects going to the rebuilding White Sox, according to Nightengale. Robertson pitched for the Yankees from 2008-’14, and the Yankees have been one of the most interested teams in Quintana this offseason.
The impetus for the expanded deal hints at the White Sox being willing to pay some of the $25 million left on Robertson’s contract over the next two years. The Yankees picked up 11 young promising prospects in deals in the 2016 season that sent lefty reliever Andrew Miller to the Indians, closer Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs (he’s since been re-signed by the Yankees) and designated hitter Carlos Beltran to the Rangers. That has given the Yankees a deep farm system, and shortstop Jorge Mateo and right-hander James Kaprielian would have to be a top priority for the White Sox in trade talks.
The news of expanded talks between the White Sox and Yankees must be looked at from many angles. First and foremost, three other teams have had serious talks with the White Sox for Quintana, who turns 28 in January. Last week, speculation had the Pirates closing in on Quintana, but it’s consumer beware on how close deals actually are to being completed. It’s common for a baseball insider for one team serving as a source putting out overstated information in order to get other teams to expand their offers.
Back at the Winter Meetings in early December, the Nationals were close to a deal to acquiring left-hander Chris Sale from the White Sox, according to a report from Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, one of the top reporters in the industry. That revelation helped prompt the Red Sox and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski to step up their offer and add a fourth player in a deal that sent Sale from Chicago to Boston.
This dynamic is nothing new or at all unethical. It’s part of the game, with reporters passing along information from top baseball executives. Do the Yankees have interest in Quintana? Absolutely. Did the Nationals truly want to add Sale to their already-formidable rotation? Yes indeed. The way to prod a team that’s on the cusp of making a trade is to push hard on all fronts.
In Quintana, the White Sox have the most attractive, affordable left-handed pitcher available on a trade market that has no other top-of-the-rotation arms available. (That could change of the Rays decide to move any of their young starters.) For now, the White Sox are keeping the interest of the Yankees, Pirates, Astros and Rangers in the Quintana sweepstakes, and all four clubs have quality farm systems from which to offer a deal.
Quintana has a career 3.51 ERA and four straight seasons of 200-plus innings, which gives the White Sox leverage. He’s under club control for four more years at about $38 million. Robertson, who turns 32 in April, has a 2.97 career ERA.
The White Sox’s job — like the Yankees at the 2016 trade deadline — is to get the best talent available by quality and quantity from contending teams. Helping the White Sox right now is that there’s no stressful deadline to meet in the offseason. Pushing prospective teams is an art form, as the addition of one more player in a trade can make a big difference in a team’s future for a decade to come.
There’s strength in numbers for the White Sox. As we know, many prospects — no matter how highly touted — will never make it in the big leagues. So the more prospects are better. That’s the job of the White Sox brass as they trade off their valuable assets in this organizational rebuild.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.