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Dylan Cease is still here, though trade talk surrounding White Sox’ ace unlikely to, ahem, cease

Vinnie Duber Avatar
February 14, 2024
Dylan Cease

PHOENIX — Dylan Cease could have shown up to Orioles camp in Florida. Or Braves camp in Florida. Heck, he could have been on the other side of Camelback Ranch at Dodgers camp, co-starring in the Shohei Ohtani circus.

At least that’s what an offseason’s worth of trade talk would have led you to believe.

Don’t be upset that you (and plenty of baseball’s prognosticators) got it all wrong. Cease assumed he was getting traded from the White Sox, too.

Instead, Cease is where he’s always been, donning black and white and getting ready for a season on the South Side.

Yes, Cease still pitches for the White Sox, as hard as that might be to believe for someone who just timewarped in from December, when the right-hander was one of the most talked about names in the sport. Chris Getz, in his first winter as general manager, seemed set to give his rebuilding effort a jumpstart by shipping Cease and his two seasons of club control to a contender in exchange for a package of prized prospects.

But according to the national reports, which never, pardon the pun, ceased throughout a frozen Hot Stove season, Getz’s asking price was too high for any team considering a swap. The Orioles instead acquired Corbin Burnes. The Braves made a trade for Chris Sale. The Dodgers never stopped bringing in arms, adding Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Tyler Glasnow, James Paxton and Clayton Kershaw to their record-setting Ohtani signing.

Cease remains a White Sock.

Surprised?

“I don’t know if ‘surprised’ is the right word,” Cease said Wednesday, the day pitchers and catchers reported to spring training in Arizona. “I really wasn’t looking at it with a whole lot of expectation. For a while, it did look like it was going to happen. I kind of assumed it. But when it didn’t, I was like, ‘All right, let’s go.’”

The word from Getz and Pedro Grifol during their sporadic offseason media sessions was that Cease was someone perfectly equipped for the onslaught of trade rumors, and Cease proved those claims right Wednesday, repeating a refrain that could be distilled down to, “Whatever happens, happens.”

“Basically, it was just focusing on getting my body ready,” Cease said of his offseason. “I kind of followed the reports, and I assumed they were accurate. I tried to just treat it like I would any other offseason. There was definitely a lot of noise, but at the end of the day, I just want to perform. So the more I can focus on what I’ve got to do, that’s all that matters.

“Either way, I’m grateful to be a Major League Baseball player. So whether I’m here or somewhere else, I’m going to try to make the most of the opportunity.”

This wasn’t exactly a shock from someone who’s displayed this kind of personality during his time in the big leagues. Any questions about what’s going on with the team or what’s going on with even the rare problems he’s faced as a pitcher have been answered with talk of a complete focus on executing his pitches.

So yeah, maybe Cease was built for this.

But even though he’s already been declared the White Sox’ starter for Opening Day, this trade talk is unlikely to go away. Most national reporters peg the trade deadline as the more realistic time for some team to cave to Getz’s supposed demands. The twists and turns of a season have a way of making contenders more desperate, be it because of injuries or a divisional arms race or whatever.

Be prepared to keep going through all this speculation throughout the summer.

For his part, Cease said that while the idea of pitching for a contender is intriguing, he enjoys being with the White Sox. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a large number of folks who think Cease will be with the White Sox through the end of his current contract, which sends him to free agency following the 2025 season. According to Cease, there haven’t been any extension talks with the White Sox.

“A lot of that is out of my control,” Cease said. “At the end of the day, wherever I have to go, I do just want to perform. It would be great to be here. I have a lot of great relationships here. The city of Chicago is awesome. There are a lot of benefits.

“I kind of just look at it as a win-win, really. Like I said, I just want to be out there and perform.”

With the season potentially set to feature plenty of the same chatter that the offseason did, Cease is going to keep doing what he’s been doing and focus on what’s in front of him, on what’s under his control. That means improving on his 2023 season, which saw his ERA balloon from 2.20 in 2022 to 4.58. He actually finished last season with one more walk issued than the year before, when he led baseball in that category.

There’s plenty of room for improvement, even for the guy whose second-place finish in the 2022 AL Cy Young vote set the stage for the idea that he could command a ridiculous return in a trade.

Getz might still capitalize on his biggest trade asset outside of Luis Robert Jr., who’s more the build-around type than someone who could jolt a rebuilding effort to life. The Orioles, for example, parted with little of their wealth of minor league talent in acquiring Burnes and play in one of baseball’s toughest divisions. The Rangers might be done shopping for now, but the reigning champs don’t need a reminder of how quickly pitching injuries – see Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer – can throw plans into chaos. And should the Diamondbacks be feisty enough, does anyone really think anything would stop the Dodgers from continuing to add?

It seems after a winter of failed predictions, we can make a couple more with confidence: The Cease trade talk probably won’t be going anywhere, and Cease probably will continue to block it out.

“So much of this goes back to Dylan Cease the individual, how even-keeled he is and, most importantly, how talented he is and what he’s capable of doing,” Getz said earlier this month. “He has Cy Young stuff. He’s still viewed as one of the top pitchers in the game. I’m really excited about being in the position to allow him to really excel.

“Dylan Cease is a huge part of this organization, currently, and we’ll continue to have conversations about Dylan Cease or others. If there are ways to improve our club, we’ll do that, we’ll entertain that. But he’s still wearing a White Sox uniform.”

Believe it or not, he is.

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