A few weeks back, White Sox pitcher Dylan Cease was speaking with members of the media, including Scott Merkin of MLB.com. Cease indicated that he would be open to a long-term deal with the Sox but that there were no ongoing extension talks he was aware of. “I would always be open to something that’s a fair, good deal,” he said.
It’s possible the sides have started the talks in the weeks since that statement was made. Whether negotiations are taking place or not, there would be good reasons for the Sox to try. For one thing, Cease has emerged as one of the better pitchers in the league. Over the past two seasons, he’s made 64 starts and tossed 349 2/3 innings with a 3.01 ERA. His 10% walk rate in that time is a bit above average, but he paired that with a 31.1% strikeout rate. That ERA was the 11th-best among all qualified starters in that time and the strikeout rate was fourth, trailing only Gerrit Cole, Corbin Burnes and Max Scherzer.
Keeping that ace-level performance around is obviously appealing in a vacuum, but it would also make sense for a club with little long-term certainty in their rotation. Lucas Giolito is currently slated to reach free agency after the upcoming season. Lance Lynn is also in the last guaranteed year of his contract. The club has an $18MM option over his services for 2024 with a $1MM buyout, but it’s not a lock to be picked up. Lynn is about to turn 36 and missed a few months last year due to knee surgery. He’ll have to stay healthy and effective in 2023 for the Sox to want him back at that price point for his age-37 campaign. Michael Kopech can be controlled via arbitration through 2025 but his own injury issues and opting out of 2020 have limited him to just 203 career innings since debuting in 2018, making him a bit tough to project right now. Mike Clevinger is on a one-year deal and is under investigation after domestic violence allegations were made against him.
There’s also not an obvious wave of talent coming from the farm to replace those guys in the immediate future. The club’s system isn’t terribly well regarded overall, with Baseball America recently ranking them 24th in the league, MLB.com 26th and FanGraphs 27th. Most of their top prospects are position players while many of the starters on the prospect lists are young and likely a few years away from making it to the majors.
That doesn’t necessarily create urgency around locking up Cease, since he’s still under club control for the upcoming season and two more, set to reach free agency after 2025. However, he is starting to increase his earning power. He reached arbitration for the first time this winter and agreed with the club on a $5.7MM salary for 2023, with further raises to come in the two following seasons. As players approach the open market, it usually takes more money to convince them to spurn that opportunity in favor of sticking with their current club. That might be especially true in the case of Cease, since he also got some extra financial security from the new collective bargaining agreement. The CBA that was just agreed to in March featured a new $50MM bonus pool to be dispersed to the best pre-arbitration players in the league each season. In the inaugural year of that new feature, Cease was the player who got the biggest piece of that pie, getting just under $2.5MM.
As mentioned, Cease is three years from the open market. He just turned 27 in December, meaning he’ll be a free agent between his age-29 and age-30 seasons. The most recent comparison for a player in this position who signed an extension into his free agent years is Sandy Alcantara. In November 2021, he and the Marlins agreed to a five-year, $56MM extension with a club option for a sixth season. He was also in between three and four years of service time, though he was one year younger than Cease is now, having just turned 26. That deal was somewhat similar to one signed about three years earlier when Aaron Nola and the Phillies agreed to a four-year, $45MM extension with a club option. Nola was just 25 at the time but about to turn 26 in the early parts of the 2019 campaign.
Nola had posted a 2.89 ERA over 380 1/3 innings in the previous two seasons. His 26.8% strikeout rate was below what Cease has done recently but his 7% walk rate was much better and his 50.2% ground ball rate much stronger than Cease’s 36.1%. Over 2019-21, Alcantara posted a 3.48 ERA over 445 innings, striking out 21.2% of batters faced while walking 7.9% and getting grounders at a 48.9% clip. He was worth 7.4 fWAR in those two-plus seasons, while Nola was worth 10 fWAR in 2017-18. Cease has been in a similar range recently, with 8.9 fWAR accrued in the past two years.
Getting an extension done with Cease in the next month or two would likely require a similar deal to what Alcantara and Nola got, but the price would quickly jump if the Sox wait. Jacob deGrom signed an extension with the Mets when he was between four and five years of service time. That was a four-year deal with a $120.5MM guarantee, which was on top of the $17MM salary he had already agreed to for 2019. deGrom was on another planet in terms of performance, having just produced 9.0 fWAR in 2018, but it shows how quickly earning power ramps up. For guys between five and six years of service time, recent deals include the five-year, $100MM deal for Joe Musgrove, seven years and $131MM for José Berríos, and five years and $85MM for Lance McCullers Jr.
The White Sox have done some notable extensions in recent years, but of a different flavor to these. They extended Tim Anderson, Luis Robert, Eloy Jiménez and Yoán Moncada not too long ago, but those were all position players who were still in their pre-arbitration years or yet to even debut in the majors. Their most notable recent extensions for pitchers have gone to Aaron Bummer, who is a reliever and was still in his pre-arbitration seasons then, and Lynn, who was a couple of months from free agency but 34 years old at the time.
Of all those extensions, the highest guarantee was the $70MM that went to Moncada back in March 2020. It’s possible they could get something done with Cease now and stay under that line, but waiting another year would push them beyond that comfort zone as long as Cease has another healthy and effective season. The club’s long-term payroll is fairly open, with Yasmani Grandal also set to reach free agency after this year alongside Giolito and perhaps Lynn. By 2025, the only players guaranteed salaries are Robert and Andrew Benintendi, though there will be club options for Moncada, Jiménez and Bummer to be considered. Taking all that into account, perhaps it’s time for the Sox to pick up the phone and start talking to Cease, if they haven’t already.
Nobody fret. The Sox are more than equipped to completely screw this up.
They never Cease to amaze me.
Cease and desist with the puns
He’s just trying to Cease the moment.
I’d love to get excited about the Sox this year but I just can’t do it. All they did was add Benintiendi which I’m not even sure is an upgrade over Pollock, And Clevinger, which I hated even before I heard he tosses spit juice on babies. They better extend Cease before he gets away, because they need him at his best to even have a chance. And Grandal better stay healthy or this could be a long season.
Yeah, I for one, really am hoping Grandal stays healthy.
Well they didn’t really go out of their way to sign a backup just in case did they Bone?
Signing another catcher, that would have required uncle Jerry to pay money. Actually the Sox should Hope Zavala stays healthy.
White sox will make an offer during spring training. If Cease agent knows what he is doing they should decline. Cease will easily top $100M in FA even with a year lost to injury in the meantime.
Im sure Giolito thought the same thing…. Now I get that Cease is a much much better pitcher than Gio, but lets see Cease do it again before anointing him Ace money
If it’s a career ending injury? That’s why these guys give up a few years of free agency. They get the security of guaranteed generational wealth.
Best disc golfer in the MLB.
Also received my vote for best western stache in MLB.
Along with Strider
He shaved it.
What?! Inexcusable! Manfred should force him to grow it back or face jail time.
It’ll be back. He’s cooler with it Clipper.
Lol, the stashes that Cease and Rodon used to carry, might qualify both – for low B grade, porno movies.
Hahn will sign Cease to a generous extension, and announce it at Soxfest.
Chicago should extend Cease now.
There is a long history of JR NOT signing pitchers to LT contracts.
Sox fans need to stop screaming ‘extension’ when a player has one good year, especially after some fairly mediocre or average ones….. I mean has the bar been set THAT low now?!
@nrd1138, there are a few differences here:
1. None of the young guys the Sox have been as good as Cease was last year. 2nd in CYA is tremendous. Best comp is Eloy winning a SS, but that’s pretty far behind.
2. Cease has been very healthy. Full seasons each of the past three years.
3. Their biggest extensions have been to Eloy and Robert, both before they played a MLB game. Jury’s still out on whether they are good deals, but they probably would be viewed as steals without the health issues. Moncada got a big extension that most of us will agree backfired, but TA’s has worked out nicely, even with the defensive ups and downs.
Overall, I think this is a great time for an extension, but both sides have to be willing to compromise. If Cease is demanding full market value for his post-arb years, there’s no sense in the Sox taking on that risk when they could just pay market value then.
Point taken, but your point about Eloy and Robert is relevant for another reason I think. People are acting like he is an Ace after one good year, but after those two got their extensions, it looks like they have been coasting and not driving to get better. Again would like to see him have another good year and not assume that he will.
Why is there zero discussion of extending Giolito? There are rumblings about most players in their final year, and even Cease, who is a couple years out…. But not a peep about Giolito.
Giolito wants full market value. No reason for a team to take on that kind of risk without some kind of discount.
Assume the risk you mention is whether last year was a blip or start of decline.
Yes, but there’s risk of injury, too. He could require TJS and miss a whole year.
As a life long Chicago resident The talk on sport radio Is between both DC of White Sox and Ian Happ who gets a new deal first.
And If both players resign which one of them gets the most money
Any one has a thought on this wage
I’m not tapped into Chi-town in any way more than the average Joe, but with the way the Cubs have operated I think you will see Cease signed first. But, I think there’s an important variable none of us know – which player prefers to stay with his respective team more?
Undoubtedly, Cease would get more money because he’s much more valuable.
However, the White Sox will not be signing Cease to an extension that’s obvious to any White Sox fan.
Even though the Cubs have 3 excellent outfield prospects nearly ready I have a feeling that they will extend Happ.
If they offer anything less than $70m, laugh.
Depends on the years. If you expect roughly a doubling every year of Arb, that’s $5.7, $11.4, $22.8, or about $40M for those years. Tacking on a year at $30M wouldn’t be something to laugh at. A slight discount if he continues to pitch like this, but that’s the cost of getting guaranteed money. Now if they wanted two years of FA at that total cost, that’s something he should probably turn down.
They should extend him soon.
White Sox have as much shot at a playoff spot as the Angels do. Time to move on from Cease and restock their farm.
That’s a silly statement. They had tons of injuries, and a senile manager yet finished. 500. They have a shot at the division.
Yeah, they have tons of injuries every year.
Not a chance. We’re talking about the White Sox. No way Jerry is paying Cease.
FWIW-Cease switched to Boras over a year ago. Any extension probably won’t be too team friendly even though he has 3 seasons to go. That will be a tough negotiation by both sides.
That’s not the move of someone wanting an extension. I don’t see Montgomery of the Cardinals signing an extension for the same reason.
I think Steve Cohen should start opening his wallet again.
For all of his hard line negotiations, Boras ultimately does what his clients want. If Cease wants to stay with the White Sox and they offer him an extension that makes him happy, Boras will gladly get that deal done for Cease even if he believes he could get more money in free agency. He’s done it before and he’ll do it again if that’s what his client wants to do.
Boras absolutely hates extensions. I don’t see why a player would switch to Boras if they want an extension.
Boras works for his clients, not the other way around. Boras will still get the most in an extension deal and he’d be happy to take the commission, even if he thinks his client would do better testing FA. Better a smaller commission than none at all.
And it’s not like Boras has never led his clients down a wrong path. Conforto springs to mind. Could have had an extension; instead is settling for a prove-it deal. It’s why these contracts can work for both parties.
Cease’s agent is Scott Boras: there will be NO contract extension. He is gone the moment his arbitration number goes over $15 million. Ebenezer Jerry is not going to pay.
Dylan lookin handsome af in his baseball reference pic with that stache 🙂
And by handsome I mean yummy
I’m calling this now. Sox will trade him & Reinsdorf will sell the team. He’s so old now & his kids don’t want the team.
White Sox fans could only be so lucky! As a Cub fan, I hope they never sell
Yeah, I forgot how many WS titles the Cubs won when they sold to the Ricketts.. oh wait…
After seeing the Ricketts playbook, the Sox fans should know what happens if Reinsdorf sells the club.. more mediocre years as the new owner will over pay for the club in the first place, and then prompt gut and fire sale off the good players and then move it somewhere else (or threaten to unless the state of IL gives them a sweetheart deal like Reinsdorf got to keep the team in town). I mean at least Ricketts calmed their herd by winning one WS, the new owner of the Sox likely will not care, but only to have no issues moving the club out of town. Basically the Sox really are damned regardless.
You must be fun at parties.
I am, as most of my friends also are from the area and know the history of both of these franchises.
Reinsdorf told his kids that when he dies, sell the Sox and hold onto the Bulls. Says a lot about what he thinks of the Sox and why he won’t spend any money to improve the team.
They do own the team that is 10 minutes north of 35th and Shields..
I would imagine that selling isn’t out of the question. The key year is 2029 which is the year that both the naming and the stadium sweetheart deal expires.
The Chairman loves that team as cheap as he is, Michael the son runs the Bulls, so they are very connected to the city. As Soldier Field will be empty in a couple years there is only hope, but I would imagine that selling/moving is probably the most likely outcome
Of course a player wants an extension after a career year.
Honestly, great column, but wrong organization. He had already priced himself out of WS ownership territory
I think the idea that Cease would sign for anywhere near 5/65 is ridiculous. I’d say 5/100 is the floor, and even that contract I’m not sure he’d even consider. But the fact that he said he’s open to the idea should be enough for Hahn to get off his @-ss and start negotiating.
As I said above, you can probably estimate about $40M total for his arb years. That would leave two years at $30M each to make $100M. Not sure that’s quite the floor considering he’s had just one dominant season, although if he continues like this, it would be a small discount off market value. I’d say the floor is closer to 5/95, but it’s a small difference. I just hope there’s an option or two at the end like the Sox have with Robert and Eloy.
Agree that Hahn should call him and Boras now to start discussing this.
I doubt Hahn has ever spoken to Boras in his life. And he is not going to negotiate an extension with an agent known for getting maximum value for his players. The Sox wouldn’t even give half the years or dollars Boras would want. Probably more like 1/3, max.
Literally the only way an extension would be possible is if Cease posts an ERA over 5 in 2023. Then, maybe. In which case, why would they want him. Other than that, he is too expensive for this fan-hating sham of an ownership.
Boras would ask for $50M/yr to start if Cease has another year like he just had. Doesn’t mean he’s going to get it. People act like he’s some of king, just decreeing what his clients are worth and FO’s pay up mindlessly.
I will admit that the Sox don’t have a good history paying big money contracts, or really, any history. But they were the high bidders on Wheeler, so going over $100M for a pitcher, even on a long-term deal, isn’t necessarily something they’ve ruled out.
I firmly believe Hahn has spoken to Boras, considering Keuchel is a Boras client. So was Rodon when he signed a one-year prove-it deal. So no, it may not be likely that they sign him to an extension, but really, the decision whether to sign an offer belongs to Cease, not Boras. He works for his clients, not the other way around. The Sox are willing to do business with Boras clients and they are willing to go big on long-term deals for the right pitcher. Cease may be that guy.
This team will likely be torn down before they sign anybody to an extension. If they are mediocre by mid season, they will probably deal Giolito and Lynn in July. And for the last 2 months of the season they would have Kopech, Cease, and 3/5 of a bad minor league rotation since they have no promising pitchers who are close to being ready for mlb. They could easily lose 90 in that scenario, and trade everybody but Robert, Eloy, Vaughn, Cease, and Kopech by the end of next year.
Cease is set for a 200M contract or more when he hits FA. More that that possibly, if he has another year anything close to as good as last. Sox won’t offer half that. Never has a Boras client in line for a huge payday like that accepted a paltry percentage like the Sox would offer. Boras may work for Cease, but he still will freely give him advice, and has influence. And he will tell him that he’s worth 2-3X what the Sox would offer him, which is about a 99 percent guarantee that he’ll hold out for better. Why would anybody want to play for the Sox, all else equal? Cease could go anywhere else and possibly get a ring, with zero chance if he stays. Pollock doesn’t make a ton and took like 5M less just to get away from this sham of an organization, what does that tell you about what players think of this organization. This is one of the worst all around ownerships in mlb, maybe all of pro sports, and it’s not just obvious to fans but players as well. Esp after TLR managed for 2 ridiculous years, and 3 straight offseasons of half-ass or no commitments to improving the team. Anyway if Cease has any self esteem or desire to win, I’d put the chances of Cease being here longer than his current contract at very close to zero. This team is going nowhere until they get a new owner.
The Sox might be the frostiest team in MLB when it comes to dealing with Boras clients, and The Chairman has been notoriously stingy when it comes to multi-year deals for arms.
The Sox will treat players with respect, they are more loyal then need be (Leury the Legend), but they won’t tack on player options and give an arm control over the back end of their deals.
Cease has a history of health issues and though it is no small miracle that he has stayed reasonably healthy with the “training?” Staff the Sox “employ” I can’t see the Sox committing more than 4 years on him. Where some team will offer him 6-8 potentially if he can sustain his success of 2022
“Reasonably healthy” is making all of his starts for the past 3 seasons? High standards. He hasn’t gone into games as deep as I think we Sox fans would all like, but he’s been there whenever he’s scheduled to pitch.
Cease is a Boras client. The biggest contract the Sox have ever given out in history is Benintendi for 75M. The idea of the Sox extending Cease is absolutely laughable. Unless 2022 proves to be a fluke for Cease, he will get a $200M+ payday at least when he hits free agency. Higher than that if he continues to be healthy and successful. There is no way in the world Boras is going to let his client settle for the comparable pittance that Ebeneezer Reinsdorf would throw Cease’s way. Give me a break.