On New Year’s of 2011, the Chicago White Sox made a move that made some people scratch their head and some people applaud. The team traded All-Star right fielder Carlos Quentin to the San Diego Padres for hit-or-miss prospects Pedro Hernandez and Simon Castro. While the trade itself was not much of a shock due to the team’s growing concern over Quentin’s health, the timing and return package made people question what the team was thinking.
Quentin was the definition of a diamond in the rough find for the White Sox. Acquired before the 2008 season in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks after falling out of the team’s future plans, Quentin was not expected to break camp with the White Sox until an injury to Jerry Owens forced the slugger on the 25-man roster.
After doing the most with the limited at-bats he was given to begin the season, Quentin rode his success to an All-Star selection and a battle with Josh Hamilton for the AL MVP award.
A late-season injury that resulted from Quentin slamming his fist in frustration on the end of a bat forced him to miss the end of the regular season and the playoffs. Still finishing with 36 homers and 100 RBIs, the White Sox thought they had their middle-of-the-order power source for the foreseeable future.
Unfortunately for the team and Quentin, his season-ending injury would be the first of many ailments that would land him on the DL.
In 2009, Quentin only appeared in 99 games but still was able to rack up 21 homers while being a lethal threat at the plate. In 2010, the then 27-year-old slammed 26 bombs in a fairly healthy 131-game season. It was 2011, however, that had the Sox hesitant about moving forward with Quentin patrolling right field on the South Side.
With Quentin expecting a sizable raise after an injury-filled 2011 that still saw him hit 27 homers, the Sox realized that they needed to cut ties with the once surprising find. His .254 average was an improvement over .236 and .243, which he tallied up the two previous seasons respectively, but his continued injuries and the expectation of significant raise led to the Sox shipping him off to the West Coast.
The Sox now look like geniuses when looking at the trade retrospectively. While Castro has struggled in the minors and Hernandez was shipped off to the Minnesota Twins in the Francisco Liriano deal in 2012, Quentin has battled countless injuries that have limited his production in San Diego.
Just like in Chicago, Quentin shows that he is still the real deal at times, but has failed to stay off the DL. In two-plus seasons in San Diego, Quentin has played in 179 total games racking up 16 homers in 2012, 13 in 2013 and two so far this season. He still possesses the pop that made him a borderline star in Chicago. However, while earning $7 million in 2012, $9.5 in 2013 and this season, as well as being owed $8 million next year, Quentin has not given the Padres the expected bang for their buck.
While hindsight is indeed 20/20, the White Sox’s prediction that Quentin would not be able to live up to the raise he had expected was correct. Letting him walk for next to nothing still looks like the right deal two-plus years later. While Quentin will always be remembered for being a key part of the 2008 division championship the Sox captured, the “what if” question will always follow him for the rest of his career.