Houston Astros Emerge in Jose Quintana Race

Reports linking the Houston Astros to Chicago White Sox starter Jose Quintana appear to be gaining steam. Should they do what it takes to bring in the lefty?

We’ve heard a lot about the Pirates’ and Yankees’ apparent interest in White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana, but things had been comparatively quiet in regard to the Houston Astros. According to MLB Network insider Jon Morosi, the ‘Stros have now emerged as one of the “most serious suitors” for the 27-year-old left-hander.

Quintana would provide a boost to an Astros rotation that was underwhelming in 2016. Their starters posted a 4.37 ERA as a unit, placing them 16th in baseball. Some of the staff’s struggles can be attributed to the disappointing form of 2015 Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel. The Houston ace failed to live up to the big expectations he set the year before, posting a 4.55 ERA and 1.29 WHIP over 168 innings. Left shoulder inflammation also caused him to miss a few starts late in the season.

If healthy, the Astros should expect Keuchel to bounce back convincingly in 2017. He was noticeably better after the All-Star break, managing a 3.54 ERA in his last nine outings, seven of which were quality starts. In four August outings he put up a 3.10 ERA while averaging more than seven frames per start. Having just turned 29, the lefty is still in a very good spot in his career.

However, even with a potential resurgence from Keuchel, Houston’s rotation could use some help, especially if it hopes to compete with the impressive staffs that will be fielded by Boston and Cleveland in the American League playoff landscape. That’s where Quintana would fit in nicely.

The Colombian native is coming off a fine season, his fifth on the South Side of Chicago. He generated a 3.20 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 3.62 K/BB ratio while logging at least 200 innings for the fourth straight campaign. Living in Chris Sale‘s shadow has minimized his profile a bit, but Quintana has been a reliable workhorse for the White Sox. His 18.1 fWAR since 2013 is the seventh highest among all MLB hurlers.

MLB.com’s Phil Rogers argues that not only do the Astros need Quintana, but they might actually be the contender most well-equipped to pry him away from Chicago. Third baseman Alex Bregman is likely untouchable, but Houston does have a rich farm system to draw from. Rogers highlights minor league pitchers Francis Martes and David Paulino as possible trade candidates, along with outfielders Derek Fisher and Teoscar Hernandez, as well as first baseman A.J. Reed.

Clubs like the Yankees, Pirates and Dodgers certainly have the prospect firepower to vie with the Astros, but they may not be willing to go the extra mile to pull the trigger. Yanks GM Brian Cashman isn’t eager to trade away the franchise’s newly acquired top minor league talent, while Pittsburgh might think twice about dealing Austin Meadows and/or Tyler Glasnow. And while L.A. could seek to shore up a rotation with its share of question marks, it’s not exactly the most pressing need.

Quintana and Keuchel would make for a formidable left-handed duo at the top of the Astros rotation. If 23-year-old Lance McCullers takes a leap forward this year and remains healthy, Houston suddenly has the makings of a young pitching staff that could do some damage in the postseason. The question is, will they meet the ChiSox’s demands? Under team control through 2020 at an affordable rate (another plus for Houston), there’s nothing stopping the White Sox from holding on to Quintana until the trade deadline if they don’t get a deal they like.

The Astros have already made a strong effort to bolster their lineup this offseason with Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick and Brian McCann. Addressing their pitching as well makes sense and would make them even more compelling out of the AL West this year.

Should Houston make adding Jose Quintana a priority before Spring Training? Sound off in the comment section below.

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