5:01pm: The MLB trade deadline has passed, and the White Sox did not trade Cease, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
1:26pm: The White Sox are taking offers on everyone on the roster aside from star center fielder Luis Robert, reports Bruce Levine of 670 The Score (on Twitter). Most notably, that includes 2022 Cy Young runner-up Dylan Cease.
Jon Heyman of the New York Post tweets the asking price was high enough that rival teams feel he’s unlikely to move. Nevertheless, The Post’s Joel Sherman indicates the Sox are “more serious” than they had been about the possibility.
Certainly, there’s no guarantee the White Sox will make a deal. They’d need to be blown away by the package of young talent to do so. Yet it seems they’re at least more open to the idea than they had been, and that they consider Robert on a different level of unattainability than they do Cease.
Cease hasn’t been as dominant as he was last season. His ERA has jumped nearly two runs, up from 2.20 to 4.15 across 119 1/3 innings. There’s been a slight dip in the underlying performance, though it’s not as dramatic as the ERA differential would indicate. Cease’s strikeout rate has decreased from 30.4% to 27.6%, while his swinging strikes have fallen from 15% to 13.6%. Both latter marks are still well above-average, though.
The biggest factor in Cease’s more middling ERA is simply a change in ball-in-play results. Last year’s .260 opponents’ BABIP always looked unlikely to maintain, though this year’s .320 mark probably represents an overcorrection. Cease issues a few more walks than ideal, but he’s capable of missing bats at a rate matched by few other starters and is at least a high-quality #2 arm.
With multiple years of control, Chicago’s asking price should be astronomical. Cease is playing this year on a $5.7MM salary, around $1.87MM of which is yet to be paid out. He’ll be due a pair of arbitration raises before getting to free agency after the 2025 campaign.
Chicago is clearly in sell mode, though their moves to date have mostly been on players with limited control windows. Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López, Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly all seemed likely to hit free agency after this season. Kendall Graveman was under contract for another year, but he’s a setup reliever having a fine but not overwhelming season. Moving Cease would deal a far greater hit to their chances of reversing their fortunes in 2024, though it stands to reason they’d look for upper minors or controllable MLB talent in those discussions.
Other Chicago players seem far likelier to go. Middle reliever Keynan Middleton is an impending free agent who’ll almost certainly move. The club holds a $14MM option on shortstop Tim Anderson, who is having a very poor season. Anderson has hit well over the last two weeks but still holds a .245/.286/.293 batting line in 357 plate appearances overall. That could leave the Sox with a borderline decision on the option and/or a tough call whether to part with him this afternoon. Russell Dorsey of Bally Sports tweets that the Sox have discussed Anderson with multiple teams; the Marlins were loosely linked to the two-time All-Star in a report from ESPN’s Jesse Rogers last week.