By Bruce Levine–
BOCA RATON, Fla. (CBS) — Do the Cubs and White Sox match up for a high-profile offseason trade? Normally, the function of trading across town in Chicago is basically taboo.
The Cubs received Sammy Sosa from the White Sox before the 1992 season. Then-Cubs general manager Larry Himes — who was also the White Sox general manager in the late 1980s — was the knockout winner in that one, as George Bell was hardly worth the 545 home runs that Sosa hit for the Cubs over the next 13 seasons.
The White Sox won a lopsided deal in 1998, when they obtained right-hander Jon Garland — a first-round pick of the Cubs in 1997 — for reliever Matt Karchner, who was a bust as a closer for the Cubs. Garland won 136 games in his career, including back-to-back 18-win seasons in 2005 and 2006 for the White Sox.
Other minor deals have been made by the two teams. In the last 16 years, only a swap of relief pitchers Neal Cotts and David Aardsma has been consummated between the Chicago teams.
Now as we enter the offseason, 2016 brings challenges for the Cubs’ starting rotation and the White Sox’s offense. A logical trade match would be a trade based around — in some form — the Cubs sending infielder Javier Baez to the White Sox for left-hander Jose Quintana. The Cubs have a surplus of middle infielder talent, and the White Sox have quality young arms both in the majors and in the minors.
Baez, 22, could be an All-Star shortstop with 30-homer potential and quality defense for years to come. Such traits would help the White Sox greatly, and he’s under team control through 2020.
On the other side, Quintana, 26, could be a 200-inning stalwart and quality starter for years to come. He symbolizes the type of piece the Cubs need to add to take their next step toward winning a World Series. He has a career 3.46 ERA and has made at least 32 starts each of the past three seasons. Quintana has three years left and around $21 million left on a team-friendly deal that also includes team options for 2019 and 2020.
“I would think we would talk to any team we feel we have a match with,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said after arriving at the general manager meetings Monday. “If it’s something that makes your club stronger, you do it — even if they are eight miles away (the distance between Wrigley Field and U.S.Cellular Field). I read about the infielders they have.”
Although Hahn joked about the Cubs’ surplus of middle infielders, the match is real. The added power of Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler could make for an even more intriguing multi-player deal — if the teams aren’t afraid to pull that trigger, given their proximity.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.