White Sox had no qualms about trading Quintana to Cubs

The White Sox’ trade of Jose Quintana to the Cubs for prospects made perfect sense for both sides.

Still, few saw it coming, even though it was apparent that the rebuilding Sox were in ramped-up trade discussions with a number of teams for their All-Star left-hander in recent days. The Sox announced the stunning deal on Twitter before the news was reported or even hinted at in the media.

Why the surprise? Blame the perceived unwillingness of the Sox to deal with the Cubs — a notion that Sox general manager Rick Hahn slammed by trading Quintana for the Cubs’ top two prospects, outfielder Eloy Jimenez and right-hander Dylan Cease, plus two others — first baseman Matt Rose and infielder Bryant Flete — on Thursday morning.

“This notion that we wouldn’t do business with them because they’re in town — or somehow we would actually take an inferior baseball deal for non-baseball reasons because of emotion or a rivalry or something totally unrelated to putting the best possible team on the field for the next several years — is laughable,” Hahn said.

Eloy Jimenez takes a swing against the Seattle Mariners during the second inning of a spring training game, in Peoria, Ariz. (AP)

It’s known that many in the upper offices at 35th and Shields share the same competitive dislike for the Cubs that Sox fans do, and the Sox and Cubs hadn’t made a trade since 2006. But Hahn said he, vice president Ken Williams and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf wouldn’t let that get in the way of a good deal.

“That’s not how Jerry is wired, Kenny is wired, I’m wired or anybody in the organization,” Hahn said. “If we really felt motivated to take an inferior baseball deal, to not put this organization in the best possible spot to win multiple championships simply because of emotion, then we would be the wrong people running this club.”

Based on favorable fan reaction to the Quintana trade, Hahn and Co. are the right people, although time will tell how this latest star-for-prospects deal pans out. Hahn said discussions picked up Sunday when he and Cubs president Theo Epstein exchanged texts. The two then talked face-to-face during the All-Star break in Miami this week, ducking behind a Rawlings exhibit to avoid being seen. The trade, which seems to benefit both the contending Cubs and rebuilding Sox, was finalized Wednesday night.

Jimenez, with “the potential to grow into a potent offensive force,” was the key to the deal, Hahn said.

“There’s nothing for us to talk about with the Cubs without Jimenez being part of it,” he said. “We view him as one of the most exciting prospects in the game today. Potential middle-of-the-order impact bat, plus bat speed, feel for the barrel, uses the whole field and has the tools to be a plus defender on the corner.”

The Sox had coveted Cease, who has an electric mid- to upper-90s arm and has touched 100 mph, when the Cubs picked him in 2014.

With Jimenez at No. 8 and Cease at No. 63, the Sox now have nine of MLB.com’s top 100 prospects, tied for the most in the majors. The others are second baseman Yoan Moncada (1); right-hander Michael Kopech (11); outfielder Luis Robert (23); right-handers Lucas Giolito (28), Reynaldo Lopez (36) and Carson Fulmer (59); and catcher Zack Collins (68).

“This package of prospects we received today not only was far and away the best offer, the best possibility, that we’ve discussed with any club since we’ve started this process roughly a year ago or so, but it’s one that allows us to continue to add to the prospect base that we’ve accumulated in a potentially high-impact way,” Hahn said.

The Sox, many prospect experts are saying, now have the top farm system in baseball, a far cry from one that was rated in the bottom third before Chris Sale and Adam Eaton were traded last December to start the rebuild. Quintana, a team and organization favorite, follows them out the door.

“The Cubs are getting not only a great pitcher, who we expect will thrive for them, but also a tremendous clubhouse presence and a great person,” Hahn said.

NOTE: Right-hander Nate Jones (elbow), who has been limited to 11 appearances this season, had season-ending surgery Tuesday.

Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

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