August 18, 2017
Guarding The Lines
Here The Fastball Are Now Going To The South Side
During his talk at the 2017 edition of Saberseminar a couple weekends ago, Rick Hahn went through the process of trading a second star pitcher in under eight months, Jose Quintana. Hahn was initially unsure of whether to trade Quintana, but received an offer from an unidentified team that was enough to deal the prized lefty if no better deal arose. Having reached the initial threshold for dealing Quintana, Hahn went back to Cubs president Theo Epstein with what amounted to a take it-or-leave it, non-negotiable framework of Quintana for a prospect package led by outfielder Eloy Jimenez and pitcher Dylan Cease. Epstein agreed, and a few days later Quintana was starting for the Cubs.
It’s easy as pie to see why Eloy Jimenez was an absolutely necessary component of the deal. A few weeks before the deal, we ranked him as the eighth-best prospect in all of baseball, and he’s on an upward trajectory, possibly headed to the top five in the offseason list. Every team in baseball would want Eloy Jimenez in such a trade.
Dylan Cease, on the other hand, takes a bit of scratching beneath the surface. The Cubs gave Cease $1.5 million in the sixth round of the 2014 Draft, shortly after he underwent Tommy John surgery. He made his professional debut pitching abbreviated stints in the complex-level Arizona League in 2015, and followed that up with twelve starts of five innings or fewer in the short-season Northwest League in 2016. He pitched very well and flashed electric enough stuff that he was on the “just missed” group for the BP 101 coming into the 2017 season, which for a lower-drafted pitcher yet to make his full-season debut is quite an accomplishment. 2017 brought success in Low-A, but the Cubs continued to manage his innings carefully, and it’s not like he was the clear second-best prospect in the system miles ahead of Adbert Alzolay or Trevor Clifton, or Jeimer Candelario if you preferred a hitter. Why would Hahn prefer Cease to other Cubs pieces so strongly?