Peter Gammons: Quintana crosses town to Wrigleyville, Springer’s MVP shot, and more

The news of the Cubs blockbuster trade featuring Jose Quintana broke around 11 Thursday morning. The phone rang. “So much for the hangovers,” said the major league coach on the other line. “Theo and Jed just dumped a bucket of ice water over the entire clubhouse. What differentiates those guys is that they understand players. They relate to them. They know what they need, and do what has to be done. They ask players to bust their butts, and when they have to do the same, they do what has to be done.”

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer gave up a huge talent in Eloy Jimenez, their version of Aaron Judge. Dylan Cease touches 100 miles an hour when healthy. But like 2016, then they broke out of the pack and, rather than waiting to see if they could lessen the Indians’ ask on Andrew Miller, they gave up Gleyber Torres to get Aroldis Chapman, And won the world series.

This year is different, and not just because they’re under .500 and trail the Brewers by 5 ½ games. They need starting pitching; their starters are 29-33, 4.66. They need controllable starting pitching, since Jake Arrieta and John Lackey will be gone at the end of the season.

They called the Tigers on Michael Fulmer, not available. They checked in on Chris Archer, and were told the Rays think they can make the playoffs and inch closer to a real ballpark. Marcus Stroman would have cost them a player off their major league roster, Gerrit Cole was not available without players off their major league roster. The Athletics talked to them about Sonny Gray, but they preferred Quintana’s consistency, not to mention his contract.

Quintana makes $8.35M in 2018 with options the next two seasons at $10.5M and $11.5M. “Look at the market and look at what’s going to be available and given our need for starting pitching next season, how were we going to build a staff?” said one Cub official. “This is for this season, but it’s for ensuing seasons.”

The Astros badly wanted Quintana, and may now turn to Gray. So could Cleveland. One official from a team in on Quintana said, “He will be a very different pitcher with the Cubs. The White Sox have defensive problems, which they know. Now you give him the Cubs defense, you put him in the National League without the DH and put him in the atmosphere they have and you’ll get a much better pitcher.”

Are the Cubs better today than they were yesterday? Yes. Better still if Kyle Hendricks gets his mojo back, better still if Arrieta finds his command. Epstein and Hoyer looked at an ice bucket challenge, and when the Cubs open the second half tomorrow, they are a different team.


Four more thoughts as baseball comes back from the beach:

1) Do not forget George Springer when you think put the American League MVP race. Indeed, Aaron Judge is the midseason favorite by most standards, be it WAR or OPS, whatever. He’s in New York. He stepped up on the All Star Stage and lit it up.

But I think George Springer is the most underappreciated in the running, especially with the Astros, the best team in the American League

He’s second to Judge in slugging an OPS. He is a terrific defensive outfielder.

Remember, when A.J. Hinch put Springer in the leadoff spot to help him cut down his swing, Springer became the Astros’ nightly Four Hour Energy. They feed off him, and think about this: He’s on a pace to…

-hit 49 homers out of the leadoff position. The record is 39 by Alfonso Soriano in 2006

-Knock In 132 runs from the leadoff spot. The record is 100 in 2000 by Darin Erstad. Ironically he’s batting cleanup tonight

-Score 138 runs, have 189 hits, slug .613, have 89 extra base hits.

-And he is hitting .352 with runners in scoring position. That, of course, is important because the way the Astros lineup is constructed, they have an .887 OPS out of the eight hole. Yuli Gurriel since June 1 is hitting .347, despite one walk—that on June 4.

If Houston wins 105-108 games and he plays 150-plus games again, Springer has to be a major part of any MVP discussion. And while Bobby Heck may have left after the 2012 discussion, remember he was the scouting director who drafted Springer, Jose Altuve, Dallas Keuchel. Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers.


2) While the three groups are bidding for the Marlins, Jeffrey Loria apparently isn’t ruling out some form of blowing up the team even before the sale. Developing talent is a serious issue. They do little in the International area. And since drafting Jose Fernandez in 2010 and Christian  Yellich in 2010, their drafts have been a disaster.

Memo to Marlins: colleges play baseball, too. This year they took a 20-year old New Mexico high school lefthanded pitcher named Kevin Rogers. In 2016, they took high school lefty Braxton Garrett, who is now hurt after making 12 career starts. In 2014 they took a DH, Josh Naylor, even though they play in the National League. With the 2nd pick in 2014, they took high school fireballer Tyler Kolek, who hasn’t gotten to the mound in two years. In 2013 and 2012, they took third baseman Colin Moran and lefthanded pitcher Andrew Heaney, now in other organizations. Their system essentially has one pitching prospect. 25-year old lefthanded Dillon Peters, now 25.


3) Is this the year of the third baseman?

We have 10 third basemen on paces to hit 30 homers:  Mike Moustakas with 25, Miguel Sano 21, Joey Gallo 2 1, Jake Lamb 20, Travis Shaw 19, Manny Machado 18, Kris Bryant 18, Nolan Arenado 17, Jose Ramirez 17, Todd Frazier 16, Ten years ago, 2007, David Wright was the only third baseman to hit 30. Seven hit 30 in 2004, the current record.

One third baseman trade changed two teams when the Red Sox traded Travis Shaw (and a really good prospect named Mauricio Dubon) for reliever Tyler Thornburg, who may not throw off a mound until next spring. Meanwhile, Boston doesn’t know what it will do at third base:

Travis Shaw: .299 / .938 OPS  / 19 HR

Red Sox 3B: .235 / .625  OPS / 7 HR

The odd thing is that at the end of last season, the Red Sox coaches who best knew Shaw predicted at the end of last season that he would be their 2017 breakout player, pointing out that after a good start and slump that he figured out what he did when he was going well.


4) When Josh Byrnes was replaced in Arizona, his bosses cited a lack of prospects in the organization. Oh. From the 2009 draft, they had Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, Chris Owings, Matt Davidson and Keon Broxton, who at the break had 67 home runs between them.


  1. Dan O'Donnell says:

    That would be John Lackey moving on from Cubs after this year….hopefully NOT John Lackey

    • Ghost of Fenway says:

      Ya, the guy has a way of exceeding expectations wherever he goes… maybe its because of his demeanor but he seems to set the bar so low everywhere he goes, and then people are pleasantly surprised when he shows up and does his job. Red Sox should have resigned him, plain and simple.

  2. My money is on George Springer for MVP. You gotta think he will be able to stay consistent through the second half compared to Judge. Plus in the event of a essential tie, the voters will want to give it to the vet vs the guy that will take home the RoY.

  3. Travis Shaw says:

    Its hard to look at the Travis Shaw situation and not want to pull your hair out as a Sox fan… I venture to guess the Red Sox would be 6-9 games up in the East at this point. But hey thats the game… hated the Pomeranz deal till just recently, never know what will happen. The worst part is that Shaw will seemingly be around for a long time, reminder of a flat out wiff in baseball ops.

  4. Jersey Red Sox says:

    I think it may be time for the Tiger’s Justin Verlander to pull a Dennis Eckersly and slide into the bullpen.
    John Smoltz is another example of a once successful starter transitioning into the closer’s role.

    • Jersey Red Sox says:

      That’s a lot of money to pay closer. If you move Verlander to the pen.