I'm Coming Around on a José Quintana Extension

Photo credit: Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Despite my former opinion of using José Quintana solely as a trade piece at the deadline, I'm coming around on an extension for the left-handed ace.  

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José Quintana was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates this past offseason for one reason, and one reason only.  With the hope that he would be serviceable enough to garner attention at this season's trade deadline on August 2nd.  It's why they signed him for a cheap deal for just a single season.  It worked with Tyler Anderson last season, so why not try again?

Fortunately, Quintana has been more than serviceable.  He's been dominant.  His latest impressive performance came last night against the best team in baseball, the New York Yankees.  Against the best lineup in the league, Quintana pitched six innings while giving up just one earned run and striking out seven batters in the process.  

Quintana's start led to a Pirates win in front of the biggest PNC Park crowd since 2019.  That's ace of the staff stuff right there.  Taking the mound and shutting down the best team in baseball in front of the home crowd and getting the win.  

And that's just one start in what has been José Quintana's best season since 2016.  He now has a 3.33 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP on the season.  He hasn't finished with a sub-4 ERA since 2016 and his ERA last season ended at 6.43 in 63 innings pitched for the Los Angeles Angels and the San Francisco Giants.  It's another chapter in the long line of reclamation projects for the Pirates that started with A.J. Burnett in 2012.

So this has caused me to take a pause.  I'm not so stubborn to believe that every sports take I have throughout a season needs to stay the same.  It's not hypocritical to change your tone when more information in the form of play on the field is provided throughout the course of a season.  

My take used to be that Quintana solely serves as a trade piece come August.  I stand by that was the only reason the Pirates signed him in the first place.  However, just as I can watch Quintana's play this season and have a change of mind, I think so should the Pirates' front office.  

With how he has performed this season, I am coming around on the idea that the Pirates would benefit from extending Quintana.  Left-handed starting pitchers are valuable.  Not as valuable as former Pirates GM, Dave Littlefield, thought they were when he stockpiled them to an incredible degree and ignored every other facet of the game in the process, but they are valuable nonetheless.  Great left-handed starting pitchers, like Quintana this season, aren't just valuable but they're rare.

Their value can be seen by looking at the Pirates starting lineup.  Aside from Ke'Bryan Hayes, all of the Pirates best hitters are left-handed.  This seems to be common among most power hitters in the league, and I don't know why that would change within the next 2-3 seasons.  And, historically, left-handed hitters are worse at hitting left-handed pitchers.    

So here we have a major league left-handed pitcher that we don't have to develop any further and has seemed to taken to whatever pitching coach Oscar Marin has done to revive his career.  I know, it's tough to give Marin credit when he seems to do more harm than good.  But if we're going to give Ray Searage any credit for Burnett and Francisco Liriano, it's time to give Marin some credit for Quintana and Anderson.  

Also, I'll admit that my knowledge of prospects is not as deep as some of my colleagues.  However, I do know Roansy Contreras and Quinn Priester are both right-handed pitchers.  And the Pirates certainly still intend on trotting out some combination of Mitch Keller, JT Brubaker, and Zach Thompson at least for a little while, who are all right-handed starters.  The Pirates could use an established left-handed starter for the next couple of seasons.  

So despite firmly being on the side of trading Quintana at the deadline, I am now warming up to the idea of extending him.  He may prove himself far more valuable than pitching prospects that have a lot more unknowns.  Also, as guys like Jack Suwinski, Oneil Cruz, and Bligh Madris, among other youngsters, continue to show flashes of greatness themselves, it could convince the front office they're closer to success than they originally thought.

If the Pirates truly want to be competitive in 2023, Quintana in this rotation would be a huge asset.  If they think they are still a couple years off, then he will be dealt.  I hope it's the former.