Jose Quintana has heard all winter that the White Sox will trade him.
So at SoxFest on Friday at the Hilton Chicago, Quintana found himself in the awkward, uncertain position of being lauded by teammates and fans with the clear understanding that he might not pitch for them by the time Opening Day rolls around April 3.
But Quintana knows how to go with the flow. Pitching well without the benefit of run support has made him mentally tough. Quintana, one of baseball’s most effective and consistent left-handed starters over the last four seasons, said he expects to remain with the Sox. If that’s the case, he’s the odds-on favorite to make his first Opening Day start.
“I try to do my job, and that’s it,” Quintana said. “I don’t pay attention to rumors.”
After general manager Rick Hahn traded Chris Sale and Adam Eaton during the winter meetings to signal the start of a youth movement, Quintana was essentially put on alert that he would be the next to go. But Hahn said potential partners weren’t offering an equitable return. So the Sox will wait.
“If we had our druthers, we would continue to make transactions like [the Eaton] and the Sale deal in rapid succession,’’ Hahn said. “Our desire is to get through this process and build a sustainable core of talented players as quickly as possible.’’
Quintana is not alone among players wondering if they’ll be on the roster in April. Or after the non-waiver trade deadline July 31.
Todd Frazier, eligible for free agency for the first time after the season, is another. Frazier and any of the veterans are available for the right return.
“It’s not hanging over my head,” said Frazier, a 40-home-run hitter acquired from the Reds last offseason. “Once you’ve been traded, you don’t worry about it too much. They said I was supposed to go to the Dodgers, and then Justin Turner signed with them, so it was ‘on to the next team.’ When my agent hits me up, I will either worry or get excited.’’
For veterans such as Frazier, it isn’t always easy to get excited about going to spring training knowing your team isn’t built to win. Frazier, who will be counted on for clubhouse leadership, talked like a leader while the many prospects around him gushed about the excitement of growing together in one system with the goal of being a top team soon.
“At the end of the day, these guys are professionals,’’ Hahn said. “They’ve been through this, many of them have been traded before and while it is disruptive to their day-to-day life, it’s something professionally they’re able to get through. I don’t think it’s going to be a factor.’’
Asked if there is any reasonable way of believing the Sox can contend in 2017, Hahn said he’d have a hard time standing on the podium at SoxFest claiming that with a straight face.
“What we’re going to look for from this 2017 team is playing the game the way we want it played, the level of energy, level of focus, preparation,’’ Hahn said. “It’s a tough one. It’s tough to serve two masters.’’
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