The Dodgers and White Sox have discussed the possibility of Dylan Cease heading to Los Angeles, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. There isn’t any indication that a trade is particularly close, or whether or not this was a due diligence inquiry from the Dodgers given the club’s obvious need for pitching.
While the White Sox aren’t exactly rebuilding, new GM Chris Getz has directly said that he is open to trade offers as the Sox look for ways to address their many needs. Thursday’s trade of Aaron Bummer to the Braves saw Chicago pick up at least starting middle infielder (Nicky Lopez) and perhaps two (Michael Soroka, Jared Shuster) new arms for the starting rotation, bringing some depth onto a depleted roster.
Apart from trading Luis Robert Jr., dealing Cease would be the biggest move the White Sox could make to quickly add a lot more talent to the organization. MLBTR’s Nick Deeds recently explored Cease’s trade market, citing 14 teams that make sense as trade suitors given Cease’s past quality and his relatively inexpensive price tag over two remaining arbitration-eligible seasons. Cease is projected for an $8.8MM salary in 2024, so even if a big performance next year raises his 2025 salary significantly, that still adds up to two seasons of front-of-the-rotation pitching for around $22MM.
Over three full seasons as a starter, Cease was solid in 2021, outstanding in 2022, and then fairly ordinary last year, struggling to a 4.58 ERA over 177 innings. A 4.10 SIERA is a little more flattering, as Cease’s .330 BABIP and 69.4% strand rate certainly contributed to his issues, plus it is fair to wonder if he was affected by the overall malaise of the Southsiders’ disastrous 101-loss season. Cease’s subpar walk rates and his tendency (apart from in 2022) to surrender hard contact are red flags, but there’s still a lot to like about the right-hander as he enters his age-28 season.
From the Dodgers’ perspective, Cease represents a much surer thing than most every other pitcher in their projected 2024 rotation. Walker Buehler returns from a 2023 season entirely lost to Tommy John surgery, Dustin May will miss at least the first half of 2024 due to flexor tendon surgery, and swingman Ryan Yarbrough is the only other experienced arm within a pitching mix that includes a lot of rookies and second-year pitchers. Bobby Miller has claim on one rotation spot behind Buehler, but Ryan Pepiot, Emmet Sheehan, Michael Grove and Gavin Stone are all varying degrees of question marks.
Trading from this pitching depth might be a risk for Los Angeles, given all the uncertainty about their rotation. However, on paper, this is still a good crop of young arms that would be attractive to other teams, particularly a club like the White Sox in need of controllable pitching. Speculatively, one would imagine Miller is off-limits for the Dodgers in trade talks, but moving one or even two of the other pitchers might be feasible for a Los Angeles club that clearly wants to win now. Or, L.A. might try to tempt the Sox with some of its many quality position players in the minors — top prospects Dalton Rushing and Diego Cartaya might have particular appeal to Chicago since the Sox are very thin in the catching ranks.