There hasn't been a lot of news coming out of the winter meetings quite yet, but the biggest story is that the White Sox are looking to shop some of their starting pitching. They'd of course like to deal John Danks and that terrible contract, and they'll surely get railroaded with calls for Chris Sale and his incredibly team-friendly six-year contract, but the haul to acquire Sale isn't something the Mariners are in a position to do.
The ideal target from the White Sox rotation should be the left-handed Jose Quintana, who just finished his second campaign with the White Sox, throwing 200 innings while posting a 3.51 ERA and 1.220 WHIP. His peripherals are solid, and he massively increased his strikeout rate from 2012.
Here's a look at Quintana's peripherals, and where they ranked among MLB starters.
Quintana appears to be wildly underrated around the league, as very few people talk about him, despite his excellent 2013 campaign. There's occasionally a bias against guys who weren't highly regarded as they came up, and Quintana bounced around both New York organizations before latching on with Chicago. He wasn't high on anybody's prospect list, and he doesn't exactly come from a country with a significant baseball pipeline (Columbia). He isn't particularly big, and while he's not a soft-tossing lefty, he doesn't blaze it up either (92 mph fastball). Quintana wasn't a full-time starter as he rose through the ranks, and found himself thrust into the White Sox rotation after just nine starts in AA in 2012. He skipped AAA completely, and he hasn't looked back, making significant improvements in 2013 and proving some durability.
All of these factors, combined with Chicago possibly wanting to ship out a starter to fill another hole, make this a prime opportunity to add Quintana. There's no question Quintana would cost more if he came from a more highly regarded background, but that's exactly why he should be pursued. Call it the Doug Fister effect, where a guy who wasn't supposed to make it suddenly did, and there's a skeptic lag that sticks around for far too long.
Quintana throws five pitches. A four-seam fastball (48%), a sinker (8%), a change-up (11%), a curve (20%), and a slider (13%). While he didn't undergo a change in velocity, Quintana did modify the way he approached hitters in 2013, and it produced excellent results. In 2012, Quintana relied far more on his cutter (26%), and wasn't missing as many bats. 2013 saw him slide his cutter usage in half, spreading it more to his sinker and change.
Oliver projects him for nearly 12 wins over the next four years, but all four years are projected as lower than Quintana's 2013 fWAR of 3.7. His bWAR, using more results based analysis, would also project much, much higher.
There's a wildly undervalued asset here, controlled for 4 years at a very reasonable cost, and the White Sox could be compelled to move him, especially after getting bombarded for interest in Chris Sale. He's only 24 years old, younger than James Paxton.
The White Sox have more than a few holes, but one of them is at second base, where Gordon Beckham has resided since 2009. Beckham has been a 0 to 1 WAR player for four straight seasons, and is due to be a free agent in two years. The Mariners have several second basemen available to deal, though their initial offer should, of course, be lower than Nick Franklin. It wouldn't be unreasonable to ship Franklin out for Quintana if you could get the White Sox to toss in the funky power RP Nate Jones as well, filling another hole - and possibly undervalued asset - at the same time. I won't get into it any further, as I don't really know what the White Sox want for Jose Quintana, but I do think the Mariners should be asking.
The problem with theoretically trading Nick Franklin is that the Mariners are using their biggest non-Walker trade chip to get another arm, while still leaving big holes in the outfield. In order for the Mariners to use Franklin to nab Quintana, they'd have to make sure they could secure another outfielder through free agency or trade, and the good free agent options are essentially down to Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz, though I use the word "good" liberally for the latter.
Of course, Quintana allows the Mariners to make a major addition without adding to payroll, and that permits them to absorb some serious outfielder salary, such as Matt Kemp's. It also allows them room to go after Bartolo Colon and use James Paxton as another trade chip, creating an idealistic 2014 rotation of Hernandez, Iwakuma, Colon, Quintana, and Walker. Four righties and a lefty.
If Quintana is on the block and the Mariners can upgrade a position of need for the White Sox, then it's worth investigating. He's a significant upgrade that won't cost big bucks, and the M's can keep Taijuan Walker.