Jimenez a big-time keeper for White Sox

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Eloy Jimenez, seen here Saturday during summer practice at Guaranteed Rate Field, is a rising star in the franchise.

      Eloy Jimenez, seen here Saturday during summer practice at Guaranteed Rate Field, is a rising star in the franchise. Scot Gregor | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/4/2020 6:00 PM

One of the best trades in White Sox history got even better last week.

In dire need of pitching midway through the 2017 season, Cubs president Theo Epstein stayed local and acquired Jose Quintana from the Sox.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The left-handed starter did not come cheap.

In addition to getting Eloy Jimenez from the Cubs, general manager Rick Hahn landed Dylan Cease, an impact arm who slots in as the White Sox's No. 4 starting pitcher this season.

Quintana was a model of consistency during his five-plus years in the Sox's rotation, and he was as good as advertised when he first joined the Cubs, going 7-3 with a 3.74 ERA over 14 starts. In the playoffs, he allowed only 1 unearned run in 6⅓ innings.

The past two seasons Quintana was anything but consistent, and he was flat-out bad down the stretch last year as the Cubs faded out of the postseason picture.

On Thursday, the Cubs announced Quintana damaged a nerve in his left thumb washing dishes at his Miami-area home. The 31-year-old pitcher is recovering from surgery and the Cubs don't know if he'll make it back this season.

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"There's some uncertainty right now surrounding his timetable," Epstein said. "There's a best-case scenario in which it heals quickly and his thumb feels good and he can resume a pretty rapid ramp-up from that point. But there's certainly another scenario in which the nerve takes longer to heal and he's going to be significantly delayed."

A free agent at the end of the season, there's a chance Quintana is going to exit the Cubs with a 33-23 record and 4.23 ERA.

Those are decent numbers, but much more was expected when you consider the steep price Epstein had to pay.

For as good as Cease could be this year and beyond, Jimenez is a star on the rise.

"His talent is going to be the dictating factor," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "His mindset is right. You see him out there, he's moving around good. We're very optimistic that he's going to be able to continue what he's been doing in the past."

Jimenez broke camp with the Sox in 2019 after agreeing to a six-year, $43 million contract late in spring training.

An overaggressive approach at the plate along with ankle and elbow injuries got Jimenez off to a slow start, but the 23-year-old left fielder settled in after the all-star break and really took off in September.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I can say at the beginning (of last season), I was just worrying about I needed to play hard and I needed to do this and I needed to do that," Jimenez said Saturday after working out at Guaranteed Rate Field. "At the end, I just said I'm going to play hard and if it's happening, it's happening. If it's not, another day. I think that helped me a lot, that got the pressure off me. That was the key last year at the end of the season."

Over the final month, Jimenez hit .340./383/.710 with 9 home runs and 25 RBI.

For the season, the easygoing outfielder slashed .267/.315/.513 and led American League rookies with 31 homers, 79 RBI and 240 total bases.

Instead of building off the impressive debut with a regular 162-game season, Jimenez has to make due with 60 games due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"I feel really good," he said. "This is my second year and I got experience last year. I think it's going to be better this year."

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