Few players have found their names in more trade rumors this winter than Dylan Cease. It has been widely expected the White Sox would move him. He’s down to his final two years of arbitration control and first-year GM Chris Getz has expressed a willingness to reshape the roster.
At the same time, Getz and his front office have set a high goal in trade discussions. Reports have suggested they’re seeking a return built around multiple top prospects. Teams like the Reds, Yankees, Dodgers and Braves were involved in Cease discussions but have pivoted to other free agent/trade targets after balking at Chicago’s ask.
Cease remains with the Sox less than a month from the opening of Spring Training. That has led to increasing speculation that Chicago could hold him into the season. One rival executive cast doubt on a Cease trade to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com yesterday, suggesting the White Sox aren’t showing any interest in backing off their asking price.
That’s a sentiment echoed by a few other reports. ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted this morning that a pair of executives outside the organization believe Chicago will hold Cease until the deadline. Robert Murray of FanSided writes that the Sox don’t appear close to any deal, while Jon Heyman of the New York Post suggests there’s a “growing belief” within the industry that Cease stays in Chicago until the summer.
None of that is a guarantee Cease won’t move in the coming weeks. There’s nothing to suggest the White Sox plan to cut off trade dialogue even as they hold firm to a lofty ask. Chicago believed they’d have increased leverage in talks once Yoshinobu Yamamoto came off the board. Yamamoto’s signing didn’t spur a deal, but it’s possible they’re taking a similar stance with regards to Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery.
The Orioles, Red Sox and Mets have, to varying degrees, been linked to Cease this offseason. The Angels, Padres and Pirates haven’t been directly tied to the righty but are generally known to be looking for starting pitching. Baltimore has perhaps been the subject of the most speculation, a reflection of their loaded minor league pipeline and the benefit of adding a high-octane arm to last year’s 101-win club. Heyman reports that the O’s are reluctant to part with 24-year-old infielder Jordan Westburg, in whom the Sox are apparently showing interest. The former first-round pick hit .260/.311/.404 through his first 68 MLB games and has six years of club control.
Cease agreed to an $8MM salary for his second-to-last season of arbitration. He’s looking to rebound from a somewhat disappointing 2023 campaign in which he posted a 4.58 ERA over 177 innings. Cease still throws exceptionally hard and punched out 27.3% of opposing hitters a year ago. If the Sox do hold him into next season, he has the upside to be the most in-demand starter at the deadline.
José Berríos, Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle have all returned multiple highly-regarded prospects in summer deals with a year and a half of control. Yet the Sox would also assume the risk of Cease suffering an injury or regression if they hold him for another few months.
It’s the biggest decision for Getz in his first offseason leading baseball operations. He pulled the trigger on a deal sending reliever Aaron Bummer to the Braves for a five-player return at the start of the offseason. Getz and his staff have otherwise slow-played things thus far, supplementing the roster on the margins with fairly low-cost free agent pickups (i.e. Erick Fedde, Martín Maldonado, Chris Flexen, Tim Hill, Paul DeJong).