There is a growing belief that Dylan Cease will be wearing another uniform next season. Cease was a popular name at the trade deadline but Ultimately, the White Sox opted to hang onto the 2022 Cy Young runner-up. Now that the offseason is underway, the trade talk has heated up again.
MLB insider Bob Nightengale, whose connections to the organization have been well documented, has continued to bring up Cease’s name in trade conversations.
Nightingale wrote in his most recent USA Today column that the White Sox are “making everyone available in trades except center fielder Luis Robert – including ace Dylan Cease – as they lower their payroll.”
This isn’t the first time Nightengale has mentioned Cease. Earlier in the month he said the White Sox would be making the right-hander available.
“The Chicago White Sox aren’t shopping Dylan Cease but are telling teams they will listen to offers,” Nightengale wrote on November 5th. “He could be the best pitcher available on the trade market.”
There is no denying that Cease is one of the best arms available on the trade market. In 2021 he set a White Sox franchise record with 12.28 SO/9.0 IP. The following season his 2.20 ERA, .190 opponent average, .306 opponent slugging percentage, and 11.10 strikeouts per nine innings pitched ranked third in the MLB. He also ranked fifth in the MLB with 227 strikeouts, marking the second consecutive season he had recorded a 220-plus strikeout season.
Cease will be an unrestricted free agent in 2026. Now would be the time to trade him, while he still has two years of control.
However, Cease took a step back in 2023. He posted a 7-9 record with a 4.58 ERA in 177 innings of work. His WHIP also increased to 1.42. While he did manage to rack up 214 strikeouts he surrendered 46 more hits. Opponents hard-hit percentage off Cease also increased from 31.2 in 2022 (which was in the top seven percent of the MLB) to 41.6 in 2023. If that wasn’t enough he also tacked on 79 walks to his MLB-leading 259 since 2020.
The down year is going to lower some of Cease’s trade value. Another issue is the loaded free agent class of arms. Of MLB.com’s top 25 free agents, ten of them are starting pitchers, and that is not including Shoehei Ohtani. Teams that are looking for pitching would likely rather pay for a starter than give up assets for Cease.
The White Sox could opt to hold onto Cease until the deadline and give him a chance to rebuild some of his value. That could also help hike the price since Cease will still have another year of control and figures to still be one of the most talented arms available.
Either way, trading Cease makes sense for the White Sox. There are too many holes to fill for them to be any sort of contenders next season. Dealing the 27-year-old would be an easy way to fill some of those holes. Keeping Cease in the rotation would simply be a waste. While the short-term pain of having no serviceable starters will hurt the White Sox in 2024 the potential long-term gain would make it worthwhile. The Minnesota Twins got two of the Blue Jays top-five prospects for Jose Berrios. That is just an idea of the type of talent the White Sox could net as Cease is certainly the same caliber pitcher that Berrios is.
Even if the White Sox think they can retool in time to contend in 2025, they would be losing Cease for nothing after the season is over. Cease is a Scott Boras client and will almost certainly price his way out of Chicago.
If they do opt to trade him this offseason teams that could be in the mix for Cease are the Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, and Cincinnati Reds.
The Orioles were in the Dylan Cease sweepstakes during last year’s trade deadline. Starting pitching depth was also something they lacked last season. Now that their lefty workhorse, Kyle Gibson is a free agent Cease could be the perfect upgrade for them. The Orioles certainly have the prospects to get a deal done making them the front runners in any sort of Cease trade.