Jose Quintana is still penciled in to start for the White Sox on Opening Day, as general manager Rick Hahn continues his patient search for the right deal, the best possible deal -- a package of prospects similar to the enormous return Hahn received for Chris Sale, rival evaluators say.
You can understand why Hahn would wait for the absolutely perfect deal, and not only because there is no real pressure in the calendar to move Quintana right now. Hahn knows he can get a really good package for the lefty today, or in two weeks, or the end of March, or April.
But he should also be patient because as the offseason plays out and teams weigh the impact of the new labor agreement, it has become more apparent that the deal between management and the union has markedly increased the value of contracts like Quintana’s.
Whenever the White Sox trade him, his next team will field an All-Star caliber pitcher, of course. But Quintana’s future employer will be the beneficiary of one of baseball’s best contracts -- a deal that can significantly serve the interests of big-market and small-market teams within the context of CBA terms which, in early practice, is being treated as a hard salary cap by even the most free-spending teams.
Quintana, 28, has a 3.35 ERA over the past four seasons, and he is under contract for $7 million in 2017 and $8.85 million in 2018. The White Sox -- or his next team -- will also hold team options for 2019 and 2020, at $10.5 million and $11.5 million. In short: He’s a high-end pitcher with an extremely affordable contract and virtually no risk.
After the incredibly thin free-agent starting pitcher class of 2016-2017, there will much better options the next two winters, including Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Clayton Kershaw, Masahiro Tanaka, Matt Harvey, Dallas Keuchel, Chris Tillman and others.
But each of those pitchers will cost a lot of money and, more important for big-budget teams, more payroll real estate under the luxury tax rules. The Yankees could probably afford to pay a couple of high-end free agents, but with the organization’s commitment to getting under the luxury tax thresholds in seasons to come, they can’t do that.