Blue Jays: The Cubs have set the first bar for trades

TORONTO, ON - JULY 2: Josh Donaldson
TORONTO, ON - JULY 2: Josh Donaldson /

The Chicago Cubs and White Sox made a big trade over the All-Star break, with the Cubs sending four prospects to their cross town rival in exchange for Jose Quintana, an All-Star starter. What does this have to do with the Blue Jays? Potentially, a fair bit.

The trade market has already begun in advance of the deadline at the end of the month, with the Cubs and White Sox swinging the first major trade. The Cubs get Jose Quintana, who has been an All-Star and is under club control for another three years at a more than reasonable cost of just under 30 million. He’s a valuable arm and he’s affordable, and those don’t come cheap on the trade market.

On that note, the White Sox will receive four players in return, including the Cubs’ top two prospects in their minor league system in Eloy Jimenez (the #5 prospect in baseball), and right-handed pitcher Dylan Cease. They also included first baseman Matt Rose, and another infielder in Bryant Flete, who both have upside. The trade gives the White Sox seven of Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects, and their rebuild is well underway.

The Blue Jays have a difficult 10 game road trip to open the second half of the season, and their success during their time on the road could determine the immediate future of the roster. We’ve talked about it here at the Journal, and it’s been well documented elsewhere that the Blue Jays could end up as sellers. Namely the expiring contracts of Jose Bautista (who has 10-5 trade rights), Marco Estrada, Francisco Liriano, and Joe Smith, are obvious candidates, but it’s hard to say what the front office is thinking right now.

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How they should proceed is perhaps the hottest topic in Blue Jays’ news these days, and there’s been endless debate about what the team should do with two other veterans who only have 2018 left on their contracts. Those contracts belong to last year’s 20 game winner, J.A. Happ, and the 2015 MVP in Josh Donaldson.

Going back to the Cubs-White Sox trade for a moment, that’s where I’m finally getting to with my point. If the Blue Jays decide they’re going to trade Josh Donaldson now, rather than wait for the offseason or trying to extend him, the Cubs have dolled out a hefty package for a premium player, which only helps their cause.

Jose Quintana is a premium pitcher, but he’s struggled a bit this year, which is uncharacteristic of him throughout his career. He’s 4-8 with a 4.49 ERA on the season, but has turned things around more recently, which obviously was enough for the Cubs to believe in his bounce back. They sent some toolsy players in exchange for the Colombian starter, whose value is enhanced by his team friendly deal, but he has also performed with a career 3.51 ERA in 172 career games, and 169 starts.

I’m not suggestion that this pushes the Blue Jays any closer to trading Donaldson, but if they do it gives them even more leverage in potential negotiations. Quintana is a solid starter, but he’s no MVP candidate like the “Bringer of Rain”. It’s hard to say if teams would be willing to pay more for Donaldson, who is more expensive and only has one extra year of control, but it’s hard to imagine the Blue Jays accepting any less.

The Cubs had to surrender their top two prospects (granted, recent call-ups like Ian Happ are excluded from that list) in order to acquire Quintana, and from a cross-town rival no less. Any trade involving players of that calibre effects the market, and I believe this one can only help the Blue Jays’ argument.

Next: Blue Jays: Imagining what the 2020 lineup looks like

That is, of course, if they decide to deal him at all. July should be an interesting month.