Saturday, December 10, 2016

What is it about Jose Quintana?

Of course the Astros are looking for a frontline starter. It has emerged in the last 24 hours that the Astros inquired about the White Sox' Jose Quintana. The White Sox asking price? Joe Musgrove, Francis Martes, and Kyle Tucker.

Let's run this down and see what we can see. We'll start with the Astros:

Joe Musgrove: After an excellent half-season in the minors that earned him a #32 prospect ranking, Musgrove was called up to Houston for the August 2 game against the Blue Jays - who drafted him in the 1st Round of the 2011 draft - and held them to one hit, striking out eight, in 4.1IP. In his next outing five days later, he held the Ramgers to one run in 7IP. Next up were the Blue Jays, whom he held to 6H/2ER, 7K:1BB. So after three Major-League appearances Musgrove sat at 18.1IP, 12H/3R (2ER), 21K:2BB. Unbelievable, yeah?

Yeah. He gave up eight earned runs in 5.1IP at Baltimore, which ended the "maybe he's the greatest pitcher who ever lived" talk. Musgrove ended the season with a 4.06 ERA/1.21 WHIP. He would strikeout 34 batters in the next 33.2IP, walking 14.

Francis Martes (aka Frankie Tuesday) is the Astros #1 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com. He spent the Arizona Fall League working on his changeup, which should give him an additional weapon in his arsenal. The 21-year old RHP spent 2016 in Corpus. He threw 125.1IP with 131K:47BB, a 3.30 ERA/1.21 WHIP.

Kyle Tucker is the #2 Astros prospect, according to the aforementioned MLBPipeline prospect list. He was the Astros 2nd pick (5th overall, after Alex Bregman) in the 2015 draft. In 101 games at Quad Cities, where he was 2.5 years younger than his competition, Tucker hit .276/.348/.402. When he got promoted to Coors Light (Lancaster), he hit .339/.435/.661 in an admittedly small sample of 16 games. He struck out six times and walked ten times in those games.

How does that compare to the White Sox' Jose Quintana? Quintana will be 28 next month. Musgrove turned 24 last week. In five seasons - the last four of which have been seasons of 32+ starts of 200+ IP - Quintana has a 3.41 ERA/1.24 WHIP. His ERA+ is 118. In 2016 Quintana ranked #10 among qualified starters with a 4.8 fWAR, yet his 3.20 ERA outperformed his 3.56 FIP/4.03 xFIP. That said, he is due just $14.8m in 2017 ($6m) and 2018 ($8.8m) with two team options in 2019 and 2020 worth $10.5m in each season with a $1m buyout in each season. That is $36.8m over the next four seasons - $13.2m less than Josh Reddick over the same amount of time - not a lot of money for a front-line starter.

The 2nd-Most Similar pitcher to Quintana is none other than Dallas Keuchel. 5th is Chris Archer. Will the 28-year old pitcher be worth more than Musgrove and Martes (and outfielder Kyle Tucker)? I don't know. In his five seasons in the Majors, Quintana has been worth a total of 19.7 fWAR - 12th among qualified pitchers in that span - more than Stephen Strasburg, more than Jake Arrieta, more than Yu Darvish, more - of course - than Dallas Keuchel (whose 2012-early 2014 struggles are well-documented.)

So the question is: Do you trade two potentially Really Good Pitchers and one Really Good Outfielder for One Established Really Good Pitcher? Or do you hang on to your assets - your #1 and #2 prospects plus a guy in Musgrove who has some MLB experience and performed pretty well, a couple of rough starts aside? It's not an easy decision.

Given the haul the White Sox have received from the trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, there's no reason for them to not make the ask that Gammons leaked. Given their ask, there's no reason for the Astros to make the trade. Given the quality of pitcher Quintana is, they're justified in their ask. Given the promise of the three players in question, the Astros are justified in their refusal. Where the two teams go from here is up in the air. I can see the Astros revisiting this trade proposal in mid-July in regards to the standings and the performances of each player with another 90 games under their belts.

*Apologies to those expecting a clear-cut Yea or Nay. 

4 comments:

Jason Thibodeaux said...

I agree with the Astros on this. You could give up one of Musgrove or Martez but not both. It would leave the pitching depth too thin. I also have high hopes for Tucker and losing him would really hurt.

We do have a great opportunity to win this year but given the cost I would keep looking for now.

Wallee Wright said...

What you failed to mention in your excellent piece is that the first two of Musgrove's appearances were in losses, closing a 2-1 loss to Toronto and leaving the Ramgers game tied at 1-1. In 2017 the Astros will no longer have a four-man 'black hole' at the bottom of their line up which should translate to more runs scored ... scoring more runs should mean performances such as Musgrove's initial two outings will no longer be wasted, and the existing staff will no longer be required to perform at a Cy Young award level in order to secure a win. The Astros will have seven major league-capable pitchers on their opening day roster: Keuchel, McCullers, McHugh, Fiers, Morton, Devensky, and Musgrove ... I'm having a lot of trouble understanding why we're looking at top of the line starting pitching instead of finding a solid left-handed reliever.

Kyle said...

I am fine with the trade not going through, but I was tentatively for it when I first heard of it. The reason being that it's unlikely both Martes and Musgrove with be break out players, and even if just one is, that would be incredible. But, if we're going to trade for a proven ML arm it seemed worth the risk, to me. Essentially, the only downside being if both Musgrove and Martes ended up being amazing pitchers. Again that seemed unlikely. Also, in my mind unlikely was that Quintana would tank in Houston, although it is Houston and those types of things happen here. As for Kyle Tucker, you always hate to lose great talent, but his position isn't nearly as urgent of a need. For a proven stater who could help get us to the playoffs this year, it seemed a hard, but reasonable trade.

Terence said...

People always severely overrate their own prospects. The problem with prospects is most of them don't work out, even the really good ones.

This time last year AJ Reed was Baseball America's #1 1B prospect, #11 overall prospect, and the Astros #1 prospect. Jon Singleton was once Baseball America's #1 1b prospect, #27 overall prospect, and the Astros #1 prospect. Jurickson Profar was once the #1 overall prospect ahead of Correa, Lindor, and Bogaerts. This time last year, most people were still certain that Buxton would be a better MLB player than Correa. Quintana has proven significant major league baseball skills. If we can acquire him for the next four years, we need to bite the bullet and do it.