By Bruce Levine–

CHICAGO (CBS) — Where will White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana be pitching in 2017? Many are wondering, including other teams inquiring about him.

As SoxFest opened Friday afternoon, fans were unsure, and Quintana himself has no real answers right now. The new ace of the staff after the White Sox’s trade of Chris Sale to the Red Sox in December, Quintana has been the subject of trade rumors dating back to last August. Will that become a reality soon or will he stay on as a link from the past going forward in the team’s rebuild?

The answer may take weeks and maybe months to come. As everyone waits, general manager Rick Hahn spoke to how Quintana and other White Sox veterans who are potential trade bait will respond to a tenuous situation.

“Look, if we had our druthers, we would continue to make trades like we did in Washington (at the Winter Meetings) with the (Adam) Eaton and Sale deal,” Hahn said. “Our desire is to get through this process and build a sustainable core of talented players as quickly as possible. The timing, however, will be based on the market and what we consider to be appropriate value in any of these trades.”

The line of communication from the White Sox is crystal clear. Their goal in the next couple of seasons is to move the veterans and build a sustainable model with a talented, deep minor league system. Players like Quintana are caught in the middle of this organizational flush-out.

“I have tried not to pay much attention to that,” Quintana said of trade talks. “I am just preparing for the season. I do not have any control of any trades. I do not focus on that. I am happy to be here. I see a lot of new teammates — we have a lot of good talent. I am still here. So I have all my attention on the White Sox.”

Quintana has been preparing for the World Baseball Classic, in which he’ll pitch for his native Columbia. It begins in early March.

Soon, Quintana will probably get tired of the redundant questions about his future. On Friday, he answered a variation of the same question about seven times, doing it with his usual courtesy.

“I like it here,” Quintana said. “I would like to stay. I like my teammates. I really want to win here.”

The real answer to this lingering question is that Quintana will get traded, and the smart money should be on it happening before Opening Day. That’s because too much risk is involved that could lessen Quintana’s trade value once the season starts.

Quintana, who turns 28 later this month, has recorded four straight seasons of 200-plus innings and sports a career 3.41 ERA. He’s under club control for four more seasons at about $37 million, which drives his value up.

“When spring training starts, I will not pay attention to this,” Quintana said. “I will not look at social media. I must concentrate on my work in order to be ready for the season. I will just focus on my teammates and my job.”

The communication between Quintana and the White Sox front office has always been good, so there’s not a lot of need for Hahn or team officials to spin this and make him feel better about the situation.

“I don’t know if my representatives have talked to them,” Quintana said. “I have not talked to them. I have spent time with my family and getting ready for 2017. That is it. I want to be here for a long time. You never know how long that will be. I am happy here. I am especially excited about the new guys coming in this year.”

The advice for Quintana from teammates?

“Being in that situation, I imagine would be tough,” left-hander Carlos Rodon said. “You just have to block it out and play the game. Not knowing when they will be moved, that will be tough on our veteran guys. We understand it’s a business and the executives’ job is to make this team better. If they do get moved, it gives them an opportunity to do well elsewhere. If and when Q gets traded — and it appears more when than if — it’s tough. Another great teammate that may be on the move. We are just here to win and play baseball.”

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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