Jose Quintana will not be pitching for the Cubs as the lefty signed with the Los Angeles Angels on a reported one-year, $8 million deal.
With that news, let’s reflect on Quintana’s career with the Cubs.
Quintana was signed as an International Free Agent by the New York Mets in 2006 before moving to the Yankees organization in 2008. He stayed in the Yankees’ minor-league system for a few years before the White Sox signed him as a minor-league free-agent.
That is when Quintana’s career took off. He made his MLB debut on the South Side in 2012, where Quintana posted respectable rookie numbers including a 6-6 record, 136.1 IP and a 3.76 ERA.
He continued to improve in a White Sox uniform, with his best year coming in 2016. That season, Quintana posted a career-high 5.3 WAR and career-best 1.163 WHIP as we went 13-12 with a 3.20 ERA, also a career-best.
But little did we all know, this would be the peak of Quintana’s career.
Quintana got off to a slow start in 2017, posting an ERA of 5.22 and 5.91 in April and May, respectively. But he began showing his 2016 form, as he posted a 1.98 ERA during the month of June. As the trade deadline approached, his improvement in form caused many teams to make an offer for the left-hander as the Sox were willing to become sellers and build for the future.
Coming off a 2016 season that saw a historically dominant rotation as well as a World Series championship, the Cubs starting pitching was in need of a jolt at the 2017 All-Star Break. The defending champions were just 43-45 at that point and their two aces – Jon Lester and Jake Arrietta – each had an ERA of 4.25-plus and a 1.30-plus WHIP. The Cubs were in need of some starting pitching depth if they were to defend their title.
According to GM Rick Hahn, the Cubs made “far and away the best offer”. That offer included prospects oEloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease, and infielders Matt Rose and Bryant Flete. Jimenez and Cease were the top two prospects in the Cubs farm system at the time. Expectations for Quintana were already sky-high.
Quintana did add depth to the starting rotation in 2017, as he went 7-3 with a 3.74 ERA and 3.25 FIP, helping the Cubs go 49-25 after the All-Star Break and achieve yet another division title. He also went 5.2 innings without giving up an earned run, pitching to a no-decision in Game 3 of the NLDS, a game in which the Cubs beat the Nationals 2–1.
However, that would be the best we would see from Quintana in a Cubs uniform.
Quintana pitched decently in 2018, but never quite lived up to the expectations he set with his performances across town. The southpaw posted a 4.03 ERA and just a 1.8 WAR, which would actually be his highest WAR in any full season he pitched with the Cubs.
The regression was apparent in 2019. While Quintana once again won 13 games, as he did in 2018, he had a career-worst 1.386 WHIP as he gave up a career-high 10.1 hits per nine innings pitched. As Cubs fans waited for the lefty to return to the level he was at with the White Sox, Quintana always left a little something to be desired.
As Quintana entered the final year of his contract in 2020, fans knew he would need to seriously improve in order to have a chance of being re-signed. Once again, Quintana disappointed. Better said, he didn’t really get the chance to disappoint.
Just before the shortened 2020 season began, Quintana suffered a laceration on his left thumb while washing dishes, which ultimately tore a nerve in his throwing hand. Quintana made only four appearances this past season but was obviously not 100%. He made just one start, as he pitched 10 innings and giving up five earned runs in the process. Quintana’s Cubs career was all but over.
As he reunites with Joe Maddon in Los Angeles, it is easy to state Quintana simply did not live up to expectations. To put it in perspective, he averaged roughly 3.85 WAR per season with the White Sox and only 1.29 WAR with the Cubs.
Furthermore, it is apparent the White Sox got the better end of the trade for Quintana. Matt Rose and Bryant Flete have not sniffed the majors and Dylan Cease hasn’t quite figured out, but Eloy Jimenez has been a great power hitter for the Sox. Plus, Cease is still so young that there is time for him to figure it out.
The Quintana trade was a failure and, maybe more than any other acquisition the Cubs made post-2016, epitomizes the Cubs performances post-championship.