Considering the Dodgers’ need for pitching, it isn’t surprising that L.A. was linked to White Sox righty Dylan Cease in trade rumors on multiple occasions this winter. There hasn’t been much in the way of new reporting on the Dodgers’ interest in Cease for over a month, however, and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal writes that a trade may be less likely because the Dodgers have since fortified their rotation with other arms.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s twelve-year, $325MM contract was the big free agent strike, and Los Angeles swung a big trade with the Rays to land Tyler Glasnow and outfielder Manuel Margot. Yamamoto, Glasnow, and Walker Buehler now project as the top three starters in the L.A. rotation, with Bobby Miller as the fourth, and a collection of candidates (Ryan Yarbrough, Emmet Sheehan, Gavin Stone, Michael Grove) battling for the fifth starter job. Dustin May is expected to make a midseason return from elbow surgery, and a reunion with Clayton Kershaw remains a possibility even if Kershaw will also be sidelined until around the middle of the year as he recovers from shoulder surgery.
There’s still some room here for the Dodgers to further solidify things beyond a potential new contract with Kershaw, so a Cease trade can’t be entirely ruled out, even if may be less likely. It’s safe to assume that the Dodgers will continue to monitor the market for any bigger-name possibilities, yet Rosenthal writes that Los Angeles might now be “looking for future value” in any further trades, such as Thursday’s swap with the Cubs that saw the Dodgers acquire two teenage prospects in exchange for Michael Busch and Yency Almonte.
In one particularly novel scenario, Rosenthal reports that the Dodgers even considered acquiring Cease from the White Sox and then flipping him to a third team. The specifics of this arrangement aren’t clear, yet it would’ve been a fascinating way for both the Dodgers and White Sox to obtain some high-level young talent for Cease, in a mix-and-match of prospects each team might’ve had their eye on in the Dodgers’ organization or within the pipeline of whoever the third club involved might’ve been.
Busch was also part of some of the Dodgers’ offers for Cease, Rosenthal writes, so the young infielder might’ve found himself on the south side of Chicago rather than landing in Wrigleyville. Without knowing what the rest of this trade package to the White Sox might have included, it makes sense why the Sox might have not been too enthralled with Busch as a key piece. While Busch has been crushing minor league pitching, his defense is considered a weak point — if first base ends up being his ultimate position, the White Sox already have Andrew Vaughn in place.
It isn’t any secret that the White Sox have put a very high price tag on Cease, so while Busch is a top-100 type of prospect, the Sox might’ve viewed him as a secondary or even tertiary piece in an acceptable trade package. Several highly-regarded prospects have been reportedly on Chicago’s radar in trade talks, and USA Today’s Bob Nightengale adds Yankees pitching prospect Chase Hampton and Orioles outfielders Heston Kjerstad and Colton Cowser to the list of young players drawing interest from the Southsiders.
Since the Yankees just signed Marcus Stroman this week, they could perhaps be out on Cease, since naturally New York isn’t keen on the idea of moving Hampton or slugger Spencer Jones, who is also reportedly of interest to the White Sox in a Cease trade. Considering how the Yankees already dealt a lot of their younger pitching depth to the Padres to obtain Juan Soto, moving Hampton in particular might be something of a non-starter.
Kjerstad (the second overall pick of the 2020 draft) and Cowser (fifth overall in 2021) are two of the many up-and-comers in Baltimore’s loaded farm system, and both players made their Major League debuts this past season, though with only 110 combined plate appearances. The duo might well be lined up as the Orioles’ corner outfielders of the future, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see pending free agent Anthony Santander dealt at some point this season if either Kjertsad or Cowser prove themselves capable of being MLB regulars right away.
Of course, it’s not out of the question that the O’s might deal from their deep minor league pipeline at some point this offseason, perhaps to obtain a front-of-the-rotation pitcher like Cease. Baltimore might be more willing to come closer to Chicago’s asking price due to the sheer number of quality prospects the O’s have on hand, yet considering how many of those youngsters have barely reached the majors or even Triple-A, the Orioles might want more time to evaluate their options before deciding on who might be trade bait.