Last Cease Dylan Cease established himself as the bonified ace of the Chicago White Sox. The 27-year-old right-hander has always had electric stuff. But in 2022, he finally tapped into the potential the White Sox saw in him when they traded for him in 2017.
The hard-throwing right-hander posted a 14-8 record, 2.20 ERA, and racked up 227 strikeouts in 184 innings. Cease also ranked fifth in the AL in bWAR, second in strikeouts, and 10th in innings. However, he also led the league in walks. The walks didn’t seem to matter much. His opponents hit just .190 against him on the season. The Georgia native set a new MLB record with 14 consecutive starts of no earned runs allowed. His efforts were recognized with a second-place finish in the American League Cy Young voting, the highest for a White Sox pitcher since 2003, when Esteban Loaiza also finished second in the voting.
His season put him on the map, and the rest of the world took notice. Team USA and Team Israel had him on their 50-man World Baseball Classic interest list. Because of the Jewish heritage in his lineage, he would have been eligible to pitch for either team. Getting the opportunity to represent your home country is a huge honor that only comes once every four years. However, Cease decided to pass on the opportunity. No matter how you feel about the World Baseball Classic, this is good news for White Sox fans.
Cease explained his decision not to play during a Zoom conference with the media on Tuesday night.
“I was looking forward to it, but it made more sense to prepare for the season. It’s definitely a huge honor and exciting any time you get the opportunity to represent something bigger than yourself like that,” Cease said.
“It’s a really big deal. But a lot of it is just the unfortunate reality of having to weigh nit what’s more important but essentially what I’m preparing for, and it made more sense nit ti risk anything and prepare for the season.”
White Sox Banking On Cease
The White Sox will be leaning heavily on Cease’s right arm. Their rotation is filled with talent, but questions marks remain about the overall durability. They will need Cease to throw close to 200 innings.
Michael Kopech is coming off his first full season in the starting rotation. He threw a career-high 119.1 innings, the most he has accumulated as a professional since 2018. The Longview, Texas native missed two seasons due to Tommy John surgery and the COVID-19 pandemic, then spent 2021 in the bullpen. Kopech has been riddled with injuries throughout his career, so it is unclear how many innings the White Sox can count on him.
Mike Clevinger also brings some durability concerns. The 32-year-old is only two years removed from Tommy John surgery. In his first season back, he threw 114 1/3 innings. Before the season even started, he sprained his knee, which forced him to miss the start of the season. Just three starts into the season, he was placed on the IL again due to a tricep strain. Clevinger has made 30 starts in a season just once. That came during the aforementioned 2018 season.
Lance Lynn figures to be the workhouse in the rotation, but he is coming off an injury-plagued 2022 season and will be logging innings during the WBC before Opening Day.
Big Pay Day On The Horizon
Cease avoiding the WBC gives the White Sox one less thing to worry about before the start of the season. His decision is not just beneficial to the White Sox. It is also a wise one for Cease in the long run as well. After his highly impressive 2022 campaign that saw him win AL Pitcher of the Month in June and July, he has set himself up for a big payday.
The White Sox ace recently switched his representation to Boras last offseason. This offseason, he avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $5.7 million deal. That number will continue to go up if he can produce another stellar season. If the White Sox fail to extend him before he hits free agency, Boras will ensure Cease cashes in with a mega contract. Cease says he is open to signing an extension with the White Sox if it is a “fair, good deal.” However, he admitted that nothing is in the works in that regard.
Preparing For 2023
This offseason, Cease has been in the lab developing a changeup. His goal is to get the same arm speed that he has on his fastball. If he can add a changeup to his repertoire, his already dangerous fastball-slider combination will become even tougher to hit.
“There is a lot less to work on,” Cease explained. “The previous season, I had a lot of things that needed to be ironed out, whereas it’s more rest and making sure my body is prepared for the long run is a little more important right now.”
“So, I’m able to kind of fine-tune the little things as opposed to having to do a whole lot of work upfront. The biggest thing is just a little more like a congruent offseason in terms of getting to work with Ethan [Katz] and getting to follow a plan, and not having any doubts of when something is going to start.”
Cease has positioned himself well for another successful season. There is no reason for him to put that work in jeopardy by participating in the World Baseball Classic.