"I don't know if it's real," the ecstatic Quintana said.
The southpaw's happiness was brought about by the five-year extension agreed upon with the White Sox, announced Monday, potentially worth $47.5 million if the team picks up options in 2019 and 2020. If Quintana, 25, is eligible for arbitration following the 2014 season, the total guaranteed dollars would be $26.5 million. He would receive $850,000 in '14, $3.4 million in '15, $5.4 million in '16, $7 million in '17 and $8.85 million in '18.
If Quintana is not eligible for arbitration after '14, the total guaranteed money moves to $21 million. That sum works out to $850,000 in '14, $1 million in '15, $3.8 million in '16, $6 million in '17 and $8.35 million in 2018. The '19 option is set at $10.5 million and the '20 option would be $11.5 million with a $1 million buyout.
To be honest, the native of Colombia doesn't seem really worried about the long-term permutations. The likeable young man is happy with the commitment from the White Sox, who gave him a chance as a Minor League free agent when the Yankees chose not to put him on their 40-man roster after the '11 season.
"That's a lot of money. But I want to focus on games," Quintana said. "The money, my family is happy with that. I talked to them and they're so happy. I want to say thank you to the Chicago White Sox for this opportunity to be here a long time. I want to play hard every five days and better this team."
"He's a great fit for the White Sox, not just a pitcher, personality, character of a guy," said White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers. "He's extremely hard working. He's extremely competitive when he gets on the mound, and he's been extremely durable since we've picked him up."
Quintana and his representation didn't hear from the White Sox about the possible extension until Spring Training was underway, but even that contact surprised him. The thought was that the White Sox would engage talks after the 2014 campaign.
But the work turned in by Quintana covering 55 starts over the past two seasons was convincing enough for the White Sox. Quintana threw exactly 200 innings in '13, posting a 9-7 record and a 3.51 ERA. That record could have significantly changed if not for 17 no-decisions and a run-support average of 3.78 that ranked fifth worst in the American League.
This run of tough luck never changed Quintana's demeanor.
"What he does on the field is secondary to who he is in the clubhouse," said White Sox ace Chris Sale of his rotation counterpart. "How hard he works at pitching but with being a good teammate and I mean, a year ago today, he needed an interpreter and now he's doing all this on his own. He's a very hard worker and he's very dedicated to what he does."
It's clearly a good thing that the White Sox didn't take these negotiations into the regular season based on Quintana's Cactus League struggles while they were taking place. Sale, who agreed to an extension that could cover seven years and $60 million with options on March 7 last year, tried to counsel Quintana through the nervous times.
Sale received a text from Quintana well into the process telling him that it was hard for him to focus with so much going on and that he wished the negotiations would end already. That text came after the original one telling Sale that the White Sox were talking extension.
"You can ask him," said Sale with a laugh. "I think I was more excited than he was."
Spring troubles for Quintana culminated on March 18 against the A's, when he faced nine Oakland hitters in the first inning and couldn't retire any of them. General manager Rick Hahn took full blame for that Quintana wipeout.
"I'm not certain what he knew at the time," said Hahn of Quintana, who bounced back to allow one hit in five innings Sunday. "He either thought that we were still considering the final deal or that we had said OK to the final deal, but he needed to get through that outing and pass a physical before it came official. That's a lot for someone to handle.
"As I'm sitting there watching him get hit around and not be his normal self, I'm thinking, 'This one's on me. I should send refunds to whoever attended that game.' It played very much on his mind during Spring Training."
Getting this deal done with Quintana gives the White Sox something other teams often overpay for and certainly crave: controlled, quality young pitching. It's a major plus for the White Sox and a blessing for Quintana, his mother, father and brother in Colombia and his fiancée.
"Any club, regardless of their resources, wants to make sure they're allocating them as effectively as possible," Hahn said. "There's risk any time you do a multiyear deal with any player, and the risk is a little bit heightened any time you do it with a pitcher.
"Given where we're at and where we plan on going, we know when we have an opportunity to lock up and extend control over key pieces it's a risk that makes sense. I don't think that's unique to our market. I think any club would want to get a pitcher like Chris Sale or Jose Quintana on terms similar to these."