After signing Justin Verlander to a two-year deal, the Mets made another, less-flashy rotation addition, inking left-hander José Quintana to a two-year, $26 million contract at the tail end of the Winter Meetings. While the move will not grab headlines as much as the Verlander deal did, it’s still a solid get for a team that still needed two more starting pitchers to round out the rotation, and at the price that starting pitching has been going for this winter, it’s a relative bargain.
Quintana is an 11-year major league veteran who has placed for six different major league teams: The White Sox, the Cubs, the Angels, the Giants, the Pirates, and the Cardinals. He is most known in Chicago, where he spent nine of those 11 seasons. You may be surprised to learn, however, that Quintana actually began his major league career with the Mets. It was New York that signed the Colombian hurler as an international free agent in 2006, and he played for them in the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League. After missing the 2007 due to a suspension for violating the league’s drug policy, he found himself with the Yankees in 2008, playing for their organization through 2011 before becoming a minor league free agent.
That’s when he wound up with the White Sox, who gave him a chance and saw him blossom into a rotation stalwart during the early and mid part of the previous decade. He debuted in 2012 and posted a respectable 3.76 ERA in 25 appearances (22 starts) and, over the course of his tenure with the White Sox, he pitched to a 3.51 ERA, a 3.53 FIP, a 1.25 WHIP, and 890 strikeouts in 1055 1⁄3 innings. His greatest success came in 2016, when he was named an American League All Star and finished tenth in Cy Young voting after finishing the year with a 3.20 ERA, a 3.56 FIP, a 1.16 WHIP, and 181 strikeouts in a career-high 208 innings. He posted a career-best 5.3 bWAR during that campaign.
White the South Side Chicago club going nowhere and Quintana posting a career-worst 4.74 ERA midway through the 2017 season, the White Sox unloaded their lefty to their North Side counterparts, sending him to the Cubs on July 13 in a trade that netted them Eloy Jiménez, along with Dylan Cease, Matt Rose, and Bryan Flete. He finished the year posting a commendable 3.74 ERA as Chicago failed to repeat as World Series champions. He would remain with the NL Chicago team through the end of the 2020 season, posting a 4.24 ERA, a 3.93 FIP, a 1.30 WHIP, and 420 strikeouts in 493 2⁄3 innings. He missed most of 2020 after undergoing surgery to repair a lacerated nerve that he suffered while washing dishes, which resulted in him only tossing ten innings. He posted an ERA over four in each of his three seasons with the Cubs, falling short of what he had done with the White Sox during the early part of his career.
He really struggled in 2021, which was easily the worst season of his career. He inked a one-year, $8 million deal with the Angels and only made 10 starts and 24 total appearances. He floundered to the tune of a 6.75 ERA during those outings, and missed a significant amount of time with shoulder inflammation. He was claimed by the Giants in August, and he posted a 4.66 ERA in five relief outings before being designated for assignment and electing free agency.
That brings us to 2022, when he had something of a career renaissance and posted one of his most impressive seasons. After signing a $2 million contract with the Pirates, he cracked their rotation and ended up making 32 starts for the first time since 2018. He made 20 of those starts in Pittsburgh, and the results were solid: a 3.50 ERA, a 3.23 FIP, a 1.27 WHIP, and 89 strikeouts in 103 innings. From there, he was shipped to St. Louis, a team fighting for a playoff spot in the NL Central. He enjoyed perhaps the best stretch of his career in St. Louis, posting a 2.01 ERA, a 2.60 FIP, a 1.12 WHIP, and 48 strikeouts in 62 2⁄3 innings across 12 starts.
Quintana started Game 1 of the 2022 Wild Card round for the Cardinals, and he was quite effective in defeat. The lefty pitched 5 1⁄3 shutout innings, scattering two hits and walking one while striking out three. It was his first time pitching in the postseason since 2017, where he started Games 3 and came out of the pen in Game 5 of the NLDS before starting Games 1 and 4 of the NLCS for the Cubs. He was good in all of them except Game 4, where he was tagged for six earned runs in two innings against the Dodgers. To date, it remains his lone playoff loss, though he did pick up a hold in Game 5 against the Nationals.
Whereas Verlander was brought in to take Jacob deGrom’s place as the ace (or the 1b to Max Scherzer’s 1a, if you want to look at it that way), Quintana likely comes in to take Taijuan Walker’s place as the fourth or fifth pitcher in the rotation. Walker recently signed a four-year deal worth $72 million with the Phillies and, at Quintana’s price and with him being a left-hander, you can probably argue the Mets have the better value here. It remains to be seen whether he can pitch like he did in 2022 or whether his success was a fluke, but it’s a good gamble for the Mets over using the spot for someone like David Peterson or Tylor Megill.
As it stands now, Quintana likely slots in as the third starter, behind Scherzer and Verlander and ahead of Carlos Carrasco and Peterson/Megill. Even after this signing, the club still seems actively engaged in signing Kodai Senga while also remaining interested in a reunion with Chris Bassitt. Both Senga and Bassitt would push Quintana down to the fourth spot, which would be the ideal location for Quintana in the rotation. If that happens, the Mets would have, at worst, a rotation that could match last year’s in talent and potential.