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Dylan Cease gets top billing in Music City as White Sox hit Winter Meetings with ace trade chip

Vinnie Duber Avatar
December 4, 2023
Dylan Cease

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — You’d think Dylan Cease was the next up-and-coming country-music superstar with how much talk there is about the White Sox ace in Music City.

No, he isn’t playing a set at the Ryman Auditorium. But all eyes will be on what goes down with Cease this week, as Chris Getz arrives at his first Winter Meetings as general manager with one of baseball’s highest profile trade chips.

There might not be a deal this week, with multiple reports pointing out that Getz is in no hurry to move Cease and that he might prefer waiting until some of the top free-agent starting pitchers come off the market.

But for teams looking for a top-of-the-rotation arm, Cease seems to be one of the most available ones out there. For the right price, of course.

Reports have painted a picture of several of the game’s top teams wanting in on the action, including the Dodgers, Giants, Cardinals, Orioles, Reds and Braves, the latter the hometown club of the Georgia-native Cease and the team with which Getz already swung a trade earlier this offseason.

Several of those clubs boast top-ranked farm systems, which already has fans salivating over the type of return package Cease could command. The Orioles own the No. 1 system in the game, per the rankers over at MLB.com, with the Reds at No. 5, the Dodgers at No. 6 and the Giants also in the top half of baseball’s 30 teams.

And it’s not far-fetched to assume a bonanza of a return is possible, as Cease’s attractiveness in a trade is fueled by his relatively low salary and two years of club control, not to mention the obvious strikeout numbers, durability and fact that he was the runner-up in last year’s AL Cy Young vote.

Anyone searching for a potential match should look to the pitching prospects throughout those organizations. While the acquisition of a centerpiece position player is certainly possible, Getz said last month during the GM meetings in Arizona that he’d hope to address the team’s already critical need in the starting rotation with any deal involving Cease.

Still, for those not combing through the lists of those organization’s top youngsters, this might strike as another tough pill to swallow for a fan base that thought it finally concluded the year from hell. But the end of a 101-loss season hasn’t provided the finality they might have hoped for, with much loved play-by-play announcer Jason Benetti already leaving town since the offseason began.

Cease seems likely to be next, another wildly frustrating example of how quickly the White Sox went from a team on the rise to a team with a rebuilding project that never got off the ground. The architect of that rebuild, Rick Hahn, who made the trade that brought Cease to the South Side back in 2017, was fired in August, and now Getz seems primed to make similar moves as he starts his own dramatic makeover of the organization.

Apart from Luis Robert Jr., who with four years of club control remaining would presumably demand an out-of-this-world return to be moved, Cease figures to be perhaps the only White Sox player generating widespread interest. But while there would be obvious hurdles, others could be moved, too, including Eloy Jiménez and Yoán Moncada, the former already mentioned in offseason rumors but still without a healthy season under his belt and the latter a potentially intriguing bounce-back candidate saddled with a humongous $24 million salary for next season.

Getz has made it clear he will listen to offers on any of his players, Robert included, which is his job description more than it is fuel for the insanity of Hot Stove season. But given the challenges of moving the likes of Jiménez and Moncada and the somewhat steep dropoff in caliber of the other players Getz has to offer, the focus this week for those monitoring White Sox activity is almost entirely on what happens with Cease.

The likelihood of a deal happening in the coming days strikes as lower now after those reports suggesting Getz’s preference for waiting out the starting-pitching market. But that market can also go from zero to 60 pretty quick.

The top free-agent arms out there include Japanese import Yoshinobu Yamamoto, reigning NL Cy Young champ Blake Snell and World Series winner Jordan Montgomery, with Aaron Nola and Sonny Gray already signed. On top of that, Getz doesn’t have the only starting pitcher being discussed as a potential trade piece. Both the Rays’ Tyler Glasnow and the Guardians’ Shane Bieber have found their names in recent rumors, but both those guys have just one year of control remaining, making Cease seem the far more valuable acquisition.

It only takes one more signing or trade, though, to either kickstart the market or ratchet up the desperation of another team — or multiple teams — looking for an ace-type starter. And that’s when Getz could be waiting to make the move.

Of course, the idea that Getz is in no hurry makes plenty of sense, as well. There’s no rule that he must deal Cease this winter, and he can wait as long as he needs to to receive the offer he’s been waiting for.

Regardless, the first-year GM is sure to be peppered with questions about the current No. 1 man in his starting rotation, who comes in with top billing and could wind up the star of the show at these Winter Meetings.

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