By Bruce Levine–
(CBS) The fact that White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana will be traded soon is a forgone conclusion.
Some sources insist that Quintana, the 28-year-old would-be ace of the staff, will be dealt before spring training camps open on Feb. 14. With that in mind, the most interesting man at White Sox spring training in Glendale could be left-hander Carlos Rodon.
When Quintana is dealt, the new ace of the staff will be Rodon. You can debate that if James Shields can make a comeback this season, he will be the man, while others might indicate that new addition Derek Holland will bounce back and be a lead pitcher on the team.
In 22 starts, Holland was 7-9 with a 4.95 ERA in 2016. Shields had his worst season ever. A 35-year-old former All-Star, Shields was 6-19 with a 5.85 ERA last year in time split between the Padres and White Sox. His ERA in Chicago was 6.77 ERA.
Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez had a nice bounce-back year in 2016, going 5-8 with a 3.73 ERA, but nothing about Gonzalez says future top-of-the-rotation starter going forward. That leads us back to the obvious.
With less than two big league seasons under his belt, the 24-year-old Rodon is the de facto leader of the the White Sox staff moving toward the future.
Rodon has the best stuff of any White Sox pitcher and has a 3.90 ERA in 304 1/3 career innings. Rodon learned a lot in his two years while watching left-hander Chris Sale lead the White Sox staff before his trade to the Red Sox in December.
“Chris (Sale) was a guy who took me under his wing and kind of showed me the ropes,” Rodon said. “It was tough to see such a great teammate get moved. I am excited for him moving on to new opportunities and for us getting some really outstanding prospects.
“We all know baseball is a business. Boston got better and so did we. It appears to be a win-win for each team. We still have some questions about who will be with us. I am sure it’s tough being in that situation. I feel playing with that over your head would be tough. I guess from their standpoint, you must block it out and play your game.”
Rodon has moved up the chain nicely with 139 1/3 innings in his rookie season and 165 in 2016. He should be free to turn loose a 33-start, 200-inning season in 2017. Over the past two campaigns, Rodon was solid in his last 10 starts. He was 7-2 last year from Aug. 12 on. Rodon allowed just 11 runs in eight of those outings total.
“I can’t predict the future, but hopefully we can build on that,” Rodon said. “When I go out there I will give you everything I have. Hopefully I have learned a thing or two about pitching. No regrets going out there. Those last 10 games were a nice little run. History kind of repeated itself two years in a row. I have had good stuff at times and got my butt whopped just the same. That can be very lonely for a pitcher. You do learn from the lumps you take. Maybe not right away. You also learn when you do well. I hate losing, so that is a process.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.