White Sox righty Dylan Cease has been one of the most oft-discussed names at this week’s Winter Meetings, but Chicago’s asking price on the right-hander remains quite high and — at least to this point — prohibitive. Bruce Levine of 670 The Score reports that the Sox asked the Reds for pitching prospects Rhett Lowder and Chase Petty in addition to two position-player prospects, for instance. Lowder was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2023 draft and currently ranks as baseball’s No. 45 prospect at Baseball America. Petty is the former first-rounder the Reds acquired from the Twins in their 2022 Sonny Gray trade.
Given the lofty ask, it’s not especially surprising that Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic casts doubt on whether Cincinnati would actually meet Chicago’s demand in the end. Gordon Wittenmyer of the Cincinnati Enquirer adds that the Reds have also inquired on Guardians righty Shane Bieber and Rays righty Tyler Glasnow, but they’re somewhat wary of the recent health issues for both. That’s not an issue with the durable Cease, who’s started more games than any pitcher in baseball over the past four seasons.
The Reds, of course, are far from the only team interested in acquiring Cease, who’s drawn interest from the Braves, Orioles and Cardinals (even after their trio of free agent signings), among others. The Dodgers were also linked to Cease last month, and Russell Dorsey of Bally Sports reports that even as L.A. has aggressively courted Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, they’ve also been actively involved in Cease talks throughout the Winter Meetings.
Dorsey adds that the Sox have been eyeing pitching in return packages for Cease, but the Dodgers aren’t willing to include young right-hander Bobby Miller in a potential package for Cease. Los Angeles has plenty of other arms to dangle, but Miller posted a 3.76 ERA with impressive strikeout and walk rates in 124 1/3 innings for the Dodgers as a rookie this past season. Miller entered the 2023 season as one of the game’s top-ranked prospects, and between that prospect billing and his strong debut effort, it’s wholly unsurprising that the Dodgers aren’t inclined to move him in a deal for Cease (or, likely, for just about any potential trade target).
Both the Reds and Dodgers stand as natural trade partners for Cease. Cincinnati has plenty of young talent (e.g. Hunter Greene, Andrew Abbott, Nick Lodolo, Brandon Williamson, Graham Ashcraft) but is lacking in more established big leaguers beyond the recently signed Nick Martinez. The Dodgers, meanwhile, will have Walker Buehler on an innings limit in his first full season back from his second career Tommy John surgery. Clayton Kershaw is a free agent and will miss at least half the 2024 season after undergoing shoulder surgery. Dustin May (flexor surgery, Tommy John revision) and Tony Gonsolin (Tommy John surgery) are also expected to miss some or all of the ’24 campaign.
Cease, 27, is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $8.8MM in 2024 and is controllable via arbitration through the 2025 season. He finished second in American League Cy Young voting to Justin Verlander after notching 184 innings of 2.20 ERA ball with a 30.4% strikeout rate against a 10.4% walk rate. The 2023 season saw Cease’s ERA more than double to 4.58, but his strikeout rate (27.4%) remained strong and his 10.1% walk rate was right in line with the prior season. He lost about a mile per hour off his fastball and allowed more hard contact in previous seasons, with his home run rate and average on balls in play both increasing substantially.
Down year notwithstanding, Cease is among the most talented pitchers on the trade market and rival teams are surely intrigued by the idea of a change of scenery that gets him out of the White Sox’ homer-friendly stadium and away from their porous defense. As far as high-end arms on the trade market, he’s also one of very few available with multiple seasons of club control. Each of Bieber, Glasnow and perhaps Corbin Burnes is available for the right offer, but all three members of that trio will reach free agency following the 2024 campaign.