So, the Chicago Cubs now have Jose Quintana.
It cost them a Top-5 prospect in all of baseball in outfielder Eloy Jimenez, as well as pitcher Dylan Cease (their second-best prospect, according to MLB Pipeline), first baseman Matt Rose and infielder Bryant Flete.
If you're looking for a comparison on what that would be in Brewers prospect terms, well, there isn't one. Jimenez projects to have more power than Lewis Brinson while also potentially having a better hit tool. A Brewers offer for Quintana likely would have had to start with Brinson and Josh Hader, then they would've had to make up for the difference in ceiling with even more quantity.
While Quintana has been very good for awhile now, he's been having a rough start to 2017 (as we noted when reports of the Brewers doing background work on him and other starting pitchers started popping up last week). He may be under team control through 2020, but that's a lot to give up for a guy who may or may not have already seen his best days.
Once the trade broke, the conversation on Twitter almost immediately shifted to "HOW WILL THE BREWERS RESPOND?!"
Well, they probably don't need to.
The Brewers will start the second half in a position where the Cubs will have to be at least 6 games better than them the rest of the way. With a strong first half, they've already forced the Cubs to give up a couple of very valuable long-term assets to try to make that happen (I'll stop short of calling this a panic trade, since Quintana will be around for awhile, but...). In that sense, they've already benefitted in a way.
Milwaukee's starting pitching also isn't in need of a dire upgrade like Chicago's was. The 4.07 ERA from the Brewers' rotation ranks 7th in the majors right now. The Cubs were at 17th with a 4.66 rotation ERA. While the quality of any non-Jimmy Nelson start still feels a little shaky going into any given night, the team has still been getting good-enough results from Matt Garza, Zach Davies and Junior Guerra that they shouldn't feel pressed into an immediate response move.
There's also Chase Anderson, who will presumably return sometime in the next month or so, despite being stabbed by an invsibile person while trying to bat. Getting him back in August could end up being the equivalent of trading for someone of Quintana's (or, say, Sonny Gray's) quality, with the added benefit of not having to give up Brinson or Hader or Brett Phillips or Corey Ray.
This season is still very much a surprise performance by the Brewers, even to those who were the most optimistic on the team heading into the season. While there's a chance to make the postseason this year, their true window probably won't start for another year or two. A division rival trading for a guy who may end up being a good #2 pitcher but is pitching more like a #4 right now shouldn't force the Brewers to re-evaluate their stance and find a comparable pitcher to buy.
That's not to say the Brewers should pack it in and not try in the second half and continue to sell off pieces for more prospects, though. There will likely be opportunities to improve the team (especially in the bullpen) over the next few weeks, but David Stearns has always come off as a big picture GM instead of the type that gets caught up in a single-season arms race. A multi-year option like Gray could still end up being a good deal for the Brewers while fitting into Stearns' longterm vision, but if the return for Quintana is any indication, it won't be cheap.