Could Jose Quintana be the answer to Jeff Luhnow’s search before the trade deadline to upgrade the Astros rotation?
Earlier in the offseason, many people felt that Jose Quintana and the Astros would eventually be paired up via trade. It was only a matter of if they could find the right price to make the deal make sense. That was the problem. The White Sox were coming off getting a huge haul (10 prospects) for Chris Sale and Adam Eaton in separate deals. Rick Hahn smelt blood in the water and tried to get the Astros to bite.
However, Jeff Luhnow decided to hold on pulling the trigger after the what the White Sox were asking for Quintana. The rumored asking price at the time was Kyle Tucker, Francis Martes, and Joe Musgrove. There may have been additional prospects involved, but that’s what Peter Gammons reported at the time.
The current options.
With plenty of possible options in the rotation after adding Charlie Morton, Luhnow decided to gamble and see what he had first. Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers have become the top two pitchers despite missing time this year. This is what the Astros needed to happen to compete, now they sit with the best record in the AL.
Morton showed signs of dominance at times but missed a month with a lat injury. Mike Fiers was homer prone and on the verge of losing his spot in the rotation. However, after working with McCullers on a curveball, Fiers has bounced back. Brad Peacock has emerged as a top bullpen arm who is a great starter as well. Peacock most likely will go back to the bullpen once Keuchel and Collin McHugh return.
McHugh has yet to throw a pitch in the MLB this year but is building his stamina in Double-A. In 2015, McHugh was the second starter. He won 19 games that year, so he could be a big addition if he can rediscover his form. Joe Musgrove most likely will go to Triple-A as backup once McHugh and Keuchel return.
With all these options, why do the Astros have to trade for another starter? They need an impact pitcher who could pitch Game 2 or 3 of a playoff series for the team. Keuchel is the ace of this staff with McCullers slightly behind him. Add an impact third starter with this offense. The Astros should be well equipped to be successful in the playoffs.
The question is if Quintana is that impact pitcher the Astros need?
Is he better than McHugh, Fiers, or Morton? To some people, it will be a flat no with his numbers from this year! However, Quintana has been so consistent in his career. This year, he is 4-8 with a 4.49 ERA with 109 strikeouts in 104 1/3 innings this year. On a better team with this dynamic offense, his results could improve.
Quintana has never been known for strikeouts. He has an impressive 9.40 strikeout per nine innings rate. His career rate is 7.59, so he is striking out batters at a higher clip this year. Unfortunately, his walk number has also increased his career walk per nine innings from 2.42 to 3.45.
Quintana has given up more homers this year, at a 1.21 rate per nine innings pitched. He has allowed 14 homers so far. At the current rate, he will allow more than his previous high of 23 homers. If you take a look at his pitching arsenal, he is throwing fewer fastballs and more curveballs this year.
Digging deeper into Quintana.
According to Fangraphs, he throws a fastball (four-seam and sinker) 62% of the time at an average of 91.8 MPH. His second offering would be the curveball that he throws 29.6% of the time about 77 MPH. The third offering is a changeup, which he only throws 8.3% of the time at 86 MPH. He used to throw a cutter but scrapped that last year.
The best part of Quintana is that he has a team friendly contract until 2020. He’s getting paid $6 million this year and $8.8 million next year. Then he has two team option years at $10.5 million per season. That contract would be easier to absorb than adding Justin Verlander.
Quintana’s price may have come down a little according to MLB Trade Rumors, looking for “two very top prospects.” That would be Martes and Tucker plus others for the Astros. The Astros and Yankees are still looking at him. According to Jon Heyman, “neither interested team seems prepared to surrender two top-30 prospects in bigger packages – at least not to this point.”
The price is not right, yet!
This would match what we discussed on Talking Stros on Sunday. The Astros are waiting till closer to the deadline to see who will be available. Heyman says that the Astros are waiting for a big fish to emerge closer to July 31st. If Quintana is not that impact arm the Astros seek, then who is? The market will develop in a few weeks, Luhnow will get his guy.
Most likely the player is Sonny Gray, but they will monitor the price of Quintana and Verlander. Both pitchers could use a change of scenery and work with Brent Strom. Would Quintana be the impact starter to put the Astros over the top? It depends on the price for the 28-year-old left-hander.
Should the Yankees (or anyone else) make a hard push for Quintana, the Astros may have a stopping price they are willing to give up. Luhnow may not get into a bidding war for an impact starter when they have many quality options. On a team like the Astros, Quintana could be the pitcher we are looking for.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs***