This might sound like a stretch, but left-hander Jose Quintana is the closest thing the Cubs have to Tom Brady.
Please, bear with us.
It’s true. Quintana literally was with the superstar quarterback Sunday and posted a photo of the two — on a street, presumably in or near Tampa, Florida — to his Instagram.
Heady stuff, indeed.
Let the record show that Brady, heading into his first season with the Buccaneers, was seated on an electric scooter in the photo and — whom are we kidding? — looking fabulous, as always. Standing behind him, Quintana beamed. No surprise at that reaction, really, considering Quintana has been spotted more than once wearing Brady’s No. 12 — Patriots version — including on a 2017 road trip when Cubs players traveled in NFL jerseys.
Fast friends? Kindred spirits? A pair beyond compare?
Has anything ever mattered less?
The ‘‘big’’ news Sunday was the unveiling of the Cubs’ initial player pool for 2020. It’s 50 names deep, leaving 10 spots to be filled — or not — by current members of the organization or future acquisitions. And, truthfully, the news wasn’t very big at all, offering few, if any, notable surprises.
Most, though not all, major-league teams released the names in their pools Sunday. The Cubs will welcome at least 39 players to Wrigley Field for workouts beginning Wednesday. Eleven players — a mix of non-roster invitees and a couple of key prospects (right-hander Adbert Alzolay and catcher Miguel Amaya) who are on the 40-man roster — will report to the Cubs’ Class A facility in South Bend, Indiana, and get to work there.
It’s unexpected, but not yet known, that any Cubs players will opt out of playing in 2020. The team still has many players to begin screening for coronavirus, too.
But back to Quintana and Brady because, why not?
Earlier in the day, fans were treated to the excitement of that Instagram photo. Call it nothing — a nothing sandwich, if you prefer — though Quintana surely ranks it as a thrill.
One of them has played in nine Super Bowls, winning six, has a mantel full of MVP awards and will be 43 if and when the NFL season begins.
The other was traded by the White Sox in July 2017 for blue-chip prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease and a couple of others.
That’s not all Quintana has done for the Cubs, and it’s pointless to compare him with Brady, so we’ll cut that out. Quintana was what the Cubs needed him to be down the stretch in 2017. Would they have won the National League Central and reached the NL Championship Series without him? Some are convinced the answer is no.
But Quintana has been nothing like a top-of-the-rotation starter — or even a strong No. 2 — since 2017. He will enter this season as something of an afterthought, relative to Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks and even grizzled Jon Lester. Yet Quintana could give the Cubs 12 2017-style starts in a drastically shortened season and reinvent himself.
In 14 outings with the Cubs in 2017, Quintana displayed excellent control, routinely delivered quality starts and, on the whole, gave team president Theo Epstein no reason to have buyer’s remorse. The Cubs were 10-4 in Quintana’s starts. His record was 7-3.
You’d better believe the Cubs would twist themselves into a pretzel to sign up for that again in 2020.
Come to think of it, 7-3 is even better than Brady’s record in Super Bowls. But we probably shouldn’t get into it.