CHICAGO (AP) - Jose Quintana packed up his locker and played catch with Derek Holland, Carlos Rodon and Tommy Kahnle one more time. And then he was gone.
It was the first July goodbye for the Chicago White Sox. There could be several more.
The rebuilding project on the South Side of Chicago picked up more steam with Quintana’s trade to the crosstown Cubs on Thursday. Third baseman Todd Frazier and closer David Robertson also could be on the move before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, making life even more difficult on manager Rick Renteria and the rest of the team.
While the future looks good for the White Sox, the present is, well, a long road to the end of this season.
“The only thing that you can reiterate to everyone is obviously we’ve had one thing in mind every day: You come, you prepare, you try to win a ballgame, everybody has to do what they have to do to contribute to that particular aspect,” Renteria said before Friday night’s 4-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners. “I think they’re all professionals. I think they all understand the business of the game.”
But Quintana was one of the most well-liked players in the White Sox clubhouse, and the finality of the pitcher’s long-rumored trade hit some players hard. Chicago slugger Jose Abreu said it was “tough to digest,” and infielder Tyler Saladino compared the situation to the loss of a family member.
After their last game of catch on Thursday, Holland and Rodon paid tribute to Quintana with a humorous Instagram video that included the pitchers standing in front of his locker while Boyz II Men’s “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday” played in the background.
“We wanted to have fun with him,” Holland said. “Once he left, me and Carlos talked and said we’ve got to do something. We’ve got to send him out in a good way and made sure we had some fun with it.”
The departure of the 28-year-old Quintana leaves a giant hole in Chicago’s rotation. The left-hander made at least 32 starts and pitched at least 200 innings in each of the previous four years. He got off to a slow start this season, but he was 2-0 with a 2.43 ERA in his last five appearances with the White Sox.
James Shields pitched six innings and took the loss in Chicago’s first game after the All-Star break, while Mike Pelfrey and Holland are scheduled to start this weekend against the Mariners. Following an off day on Monday, Miguel Gonzalez and Rodon will face NL West-leading Los Angeles next week.
Gonzalez and Saladino were reinstated from the disabled list on Friday. Gonzalez had been sidelined by a right shoulder injury, and Saladino was out with back spasms.
Chicago has dropped five of six. It is last in the AL Central with a 38-50 record.
“You know the game goes on,” Renteria said. “We’re going to continue to have to do the things that are necessary to give us an opportunity to play the baseball that we want to play.”
While the White Sox will miss Quintana, the trade with the Cubs netted two more marquee prospects in slugger Eloy Jimenez and hard-throwing right-hander Dylan Cease. Minor league infielders Matt Rose and Bryant Flete also were acquired in the deal.
The 20-year-old Jimenez missed the start of the season with a shoulder injury, but has big-time power. He hit .329 with 14 homers and 81 RBIs for Class A South Bend last year.
The trade “was a little surprising in the beginning, but like I said at the beginning of the season, too, you never know where you are going to find happiness,” Jimenez said through a translator. “Right now, you can be playing for a specific organization but you also have to play for the rest of the organizations in major leagues because this is a business.”
The addition of Jimenez and Cease cements Chicago’s minor league system as one of the best in baseball. The White Sox also acquired second baseman Yoan Moncada and pitchers Michael Kopech and Lucas Giolito in a pair of offseason trades, and signed prized Cuban prospect Luis Robert to a minor league deal in May.
But the deal with the Cubs also came with a reminder of how difficult it can be to rebuild. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn announced right-hander Zack Burdi, a first-round pick last year, has a torn ligament in his elbow and is likely headed for Tommy John surgery.
“It shows you can make the best laid plans and sometimes the baseball gods laugh,” Hahn said. “But certainly part of what we’re trying to accomplish here is accumulate as much talent as possible knowing that things happen.”
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