The first domino has fallen on the July trade market, as the White Sox and Cubs put together a rare intracity blockbuster in which Jose Quintana moved from the South Side to Wrigley Field.
Is the fun about to begin?
The Cubs sent four prospects -- including Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease, Nos. 1 and 2 on the organization's Top 30 list according to MLBPipeline.com -- to the White Sox for Quintana, who should give manager Joe Maddon's rotation a boost as they look to erase the Brewers' 5 1/2-game lead in the National League Central.
A short time later, those Brewers made a considerably smaller move, sending Triple-A first baseman Garrett Cooper to the Yankees in exchange for left-handed reliever Tyler Webb. In other words, even with 18 days before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, it appears that general managers around the Majors are ready to get things going.
With that in mind, let's look at what the Windy City blockbuster means for the teams involved and where it leaves the rest of baseball as teams prepare to resume play on Friday.
Has the price point for Sonny Gray been set?
Gray and Quintana have been linked throughout the trade season, so the deal for Quintana leaves the Athletics' ace as the best controllable starter available. (Until the Pirates decide whether to move Gerrit Cole, at least.)
Just as the Aroldis Chapman trade last summer set the price for Andrew Miller and, to a lesser extent, Mark Melancon, the Quintana trade gives teams around the Majors an idea of what it will take to land the 27-year-old Gray.
The White Sox did well in landing the Cubs' top two prospects (and two low-level players) for Quintana, so it's natural to think Oakland's Billy Beane and David Forst will be seeking the same type of package for Gray, who is under control through 2019. The Athletics aren't in a spot where they need to trade Gray, so it's hard to believe they would take less than two top prospects for the right-hander.
"The price of poker is expensive," Brewers GM David Stearns said. "The Cubs gave up some really good players, and in exchange, they got a starting pitcher who is going to be able to be in their rotation for the foreseeable future. Those types of trades generally cost a lot."
One American League GM said there's some industry skepticism surrounding Gray given his medical history, but Oakland should count on getting a similar package to the one the White Sox received.
"I have Quintana ahead of him, but it should be close," the GM said.
Which other starters could be traded?
The Rangers continue to tell teams they're buyers, not sellers, so neither Yu Darvish nor Cole Hamels are going anywhere for now. The Giants would surely deal Johnny Cueto for the right offer, though his opt-out clause complicates matters for any acquiring club.
Justin Verlander remains an intriguing option, and while a source said Wednesday the Tigers aren't shopping the former AL MVP Award and AL Cy Young Award winner, Detroit "could be talked into moving him" before July 31.
Despite the Quintana deal, several executives said they still expect most teams to wait another week or two before making major moves.
"This could impact the Gray market," one AL executive said. "But for most teams, they're still not sure if they're buyers or sellers."
There are plenty of mid- to back-of-the-rotation starters available, including San Diego's Trevor Cahill, Cincinnati's Scott Feldman and Atlanta's Jaime Garcia, each of whom would cost far less than a pitcher such as Gray.
With Quintana gone, what's next for the White Sox?
The yearlong fire sale continues for GM Rick Hahn, who has now dealt his top two starting pitchers (Chris Sale, Quintana) and center fielder (Adam Eaton) in the past seven months. Six of the top 10 White Sox prospects came from those three deals.
So what's left? Righty David Robertson is the best closer available on the market -- unless the Orioles make Zach Britton available -- and is under control through next season, while third baseman Todd Frazier (a free agent after the season) should find a new home before July 31, possibly in Boston or the Bronx. Outfielder Melky Cabrera and starters Derek Holland and Mike Pelfrey -- all impending free agents -- could also be moved.
Are the Cubs finished making moves?
It was less than a week ago that Cubs president Theo Epstein said that while he was open to improving the team through a trade, "the biggest fixes are inside the clubhouse." This is largely the same roster as the one that won the World Series last fall, so the talent is there for the Cubs to turn things around.
If the Cubs are to get back to the postseason for the third consecutive year -- something the franchise has never accomplished -- they'll need their young core of stars to step up. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo can't do it by themselves.
Do the Brewers counter the Cubs?
Milwaukee holds a 5 1/2-game lead over the Cubs and Cardinals in the NL Central, seeking to get to the postseason for the first time since 2011. Will the Cubs' acquisition of Quintana prompt Stearns to make a big move of his own?
"I think that can be a little bit dangerous," Stearns said Thursday. "We have to make moves that make the most sense for our franchise, and that's regardless of what a particular rival or another team in our division is doing.
"The Cubs are doing what they think they need to do to improve their team. Obviously we're going to continue to look at the market and see if there's a fit for us down the road."
If Milwaukee decides to do something substantial, adding a top starting pitcher would be the move. But Stearns said that dealing his top prospects would go against the philosophy he and the organization have employed since he took over in late 2015.
"We've worked very hard to build our system and our organization as a whole to where it is," Stearns said. "To have the level of the young talent that we have throughout the organization is a good place to be. I don't see us, whether it's this year or any year going forward, moving on from that strategy. I think that's a strategy that's going to prove successful for us. Maintaining that consistent pipeline of young talent is important."
Are the Yankees still looking for a first baseman?
The deal for Cooper -- a 26-year-old with huge power numbers at Triple-A -- looks to be one for organizational depth at a position the Yankees have very little. The hope remains that Greg Bird gets healthy and makes an impact during the second half, though that's far from a certainty given the setbacks he's had along the way.
"I'd have to think they're still looking," a rival AL executive said.
There are first basemen available on the trade market, including Oakland's Yonder Alonso and Lucas Duda of the Mets, though the Yankees seem hesitant to part with any of their top prospects this summer. If a trade is there at a price GM Brian Cashman is comfortable with, he's ready to deal. If not, perhaps Cooper -- who had 17 homers, 82 RBIs and a 1.080 OPS at Triple-A Colorado Springs -- gets a shot in the Majors.
Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.