CHICAGO -- The better Jose Quintana gets, the bigger the possibility he could end up on somebody else’s roster to start the 2014 season.
It’s not like the Chicago White Sox underestimate Quintana’s value. Far from it. The reality, though, is that the club is heavy on left-handed starters, and Quintana could ultimately prove to be the best trade chip to beef up another area of the roster.
The left-hander was at it again Tuesday night, finding the focus to deliver even as the season drifts off into oblivion. He gave up just one run over six innings while dropping his ERA to 3.49, the lowest it has been since the tail end of May.
“He just continues to battle and he just finds a way to get through innings,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He always seems to make the tough pitch when he needs to. Fortunately, tonight he got a decision. That’s probably something that’s wearing on him a little bit and it hasn’t shown too much.”
Already saddled with a franchise-record 17 no-decisions, Quintana was able to walk away with a victory Tuesday, his first since Aug. 16, also against the Minnesota Twins.
The major league record for no decisions in a season is 20, set by Bert Blyleven in 1979; it’s a record Quintana won’t be able to match, since he is in line to make just two more starts before season's end.
Quintana was feeling so good after Tuesday’s contest he did his postgame interview in English, eschewing his normal translator.
“I feel great, I feel wonderful, because my team won tonight,” Quintana said. “Every time I have the opportunity for a win, I’m happy for that.”
Wins and losses are out of a pitcher's control, but the numbers are often seen as an indicator of what type of season it was. At 8-6, Quintana’s won-loss mark nowhere near explains what kind of season he has had.
“To me, [his demeanor] is his best thing going,” White Sox captain Paul Konerko said. “Everybody in here always talks about it. He’s just very composed during the game, after the game. You can’t really tell [the difference]. Rarely do you ever see him even change facial expression. He’s very poised. He trusts his stuff well.”
The 24-year-old hurler sounds every bit a keeper who could bring stability to the starting rotation moving into next season. But the rotation is being built around left-hander Chris Sale, while fellow lefty John Danks would be difficult to trade with another three years and $42 million remaining on his contract. There is another left-hander in Hector Santiago, but his value on the trade market can't match what Quintana offers.
Ventura knows just how valuable a quality young arm is to a ballclub, not to mention an affordable one.
“He figured it out really quick as far as him coming up last year as a spot starter, and it just seemed to click,” Ventura said. “I think that was something we noticed first, in [his first start in] Cleveland, that he has the competitiveness and the stuff to be able to do it and compete at this level.
“I think last year was very valuable in just keeping him here and going into this year,” he said. “You just seem like you're in games all the time when he's pitching. That's good for a team to have, especially the players going in, that when he's pitching you know you're going to be in that game. He just seems to bring that out.”
While trading a quality arm such as Quintana’s is a gamble, the White Sox aren’t expected to make such a move without getting high-level talent in return. Yet there is always the risk that by trading Quintana, they turn a strength (read: starting pitching) into a weakness.
Ultimately, the White Sox could come to the conclusion that even if they were offered a trade package to upgrade weaknesses, they could decide that keeping Quintana is the better move. Making sure it’s a rotation full of head-strong competitors figures to be a priority, as well.
“He’s been pretty steady as far as his personality and everything else that goes with having so many games without an immediate result for him,” Ventura said. “You can win or lose games, but when it’s not on your record it becomes something that he’s been able to deal with fairly well.
“He just goes about his business. He’s a mature kid. It’s one of the things about him, even last year, that we saw is he’s a competitor. He’s a tough kid. But he has maturity above his age.”