The Dylan Cease Trade Is Looking Like a Win-Win

Dylan Cease has been the new ace the Padres needed, while prospects Drew Thorpe and Jairo Iriarte are thriving in the White Sox organization.

Dylan Cease #84 of the San Diego Padres pitches in the top of the first inning during the exhibition game between San Diego Padres and LG Twins at Gocheok Sky Dome.
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - MARCH 18: Dylan Cease #84 of the San Diego Padres pitches in the top of the first inning during the exhibition game between San Diego Padres and LG Twins at Gocheok Sky Dome on March 18, 2024 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Gene Wang/Getty Images)

The question of whether or not Dylan Cease would be moved loomed in Chicago all winter, as the White Sox worked to determine a direction moving forward. After the news of Gerrit Cole’s injury, the market and rumors heated up, and the San Diego Padres ultimately won the sweepstakes right before the season kicked off.

In return, the White Sox netted two top-100 pitching prospects in Drew Thorpe and Jairo Iriarte, a young outfielder in Samuel Zavala, and a veteran reliever in Steven Wilson. This deal felt appropriate, but many questioned whether or not it was enough value if Cease were to return to his peak form.

Here we are in May, and Cease has been one of the best pitchers in baseball. He is the clear ace of the Padres’ staff.

The White Sox, meanwhile, are one of the worst teams in baseball and have experienced their worst start in franchise history without Cease around. Despite that, the players they received from San Diego have already shown that this deal could work out very well for Chicago in the long run.

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The sports world tends to force the idea of one side winning a given trade, but this deal could defy that way of thinking. Let’s take a look at each side of the trade as we consider the possibility that it was simply a win for both sides.

The Padres Have Their Guy

After losing Blake Snell this offseason, the Padres had a Cy-Young-sized hole in their rotation. Initially, it seemed like they were going to fill that hole with depth rather than another star.

They also lost Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha but acquired Michael King and others from the Yankees in the Juan Soto deal.

When the market heated up for Cease during spring training, the Padres pounced in typical A.J. Preller fashion and got their new ace. It has worked out excellently so far, as Cease looks much more like the 2022 version of himself than what we saw from him last year.

Through his first seven starts of the year, Cease has a 2.55 ERA with 48 strikeouts and a ridiculous 0.80 WHIP across 42.1 innings. Not only has he been great, but he has been incredibly durable much like he was throughout his time in Chicago.

The Padres haven’t played their best this season, in large part due to the pitching staff, but Cease has not been at fault whatsoever. This deal looks great for San Diego. With two full years of control, he’ll be a focal point of the rotation for hopefully two playoff runs and potentially more if they can extend him.

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Cease allowed five runs in his final start of April but has been excellent in every other outing, going at least six innings in every start since his first. While the team parted with three high-end prospects to acquire him, it’s looking like a good move given his early-season success.

While the prospects I’m about to break down may turn into legit pieces, the Padres have an ace for two years (at least), and that makes this trade a win on their side.

The New White Sox Prospects Are Thriving

Amidst a disappointing offseason, trading Cease was the ultimate signal that the White Sox were trending toward a retooling that would result in a rough 2024 season. That has been the case to an extreme that many did not expect, as the team has been the worst in baseball through the first six weeks of the season.

However, the White Sox farm system is in an entirely different place compared to this time last year. That is due to a number of impactful acquisitions last trade deadline, internal development from recent draft picks, and the return from this particular trade.

In return for their ace, the White Sox received a package headlined by two pitching prospects who will have a good chance to be focal points of the rotation in the near future.

Drew Thorpe

The top prospect in the deal was Just Baseball’s 58th-ranked prospect Drew Thorpe, who will certainly make his way into the top 50 this summer. Coming off a year in which he was one of the best pitchers in minor league baseball, Thorpe was traded twice this winter; he was also a key part of the Juan Soto trade with the Yankees.

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It’s safe to say that Thorpe has met and even exceeded the expectations set for him as the top piece of this trade. He has been unbelievably consistent in Double-A Birmingham, with command that matches almost any pitching prospect and an elite ability to limit hard contact.

Thorpe is efficient and clean with location as he delivers quality starts essentially every time he touches the mound. His floor is that of a pitcher who could start MLB games today and not get blown up.

Through his first six starts with Double-A Birmingham, Thorpe has a 1.01 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, and 33 strikeouts across 35.2 innings pitched with no more than two runs allowed in any given start and none allowed in half of his starts. To say he has been consistent would be underselling Thorpe’s start to the season.

While the strikeout rate hasn’t been quite as high in his past few games, Thorpe has generated plenty of whiffs on his 80-grade changeup and sharp slider that elevate the look of his slower fastball, which has plenty of movement itself.

Thorpe has been everything he was advertised to be and then some since the trade. He has the makings of a very solid middle-of-the-rotation arm and should get a chance to show that in Chicago sooner rather than later.

The young right-hander has done everything you want the headliner of a blockbuster to do while leading Birmingham to by far the best record in Double-A this season.

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Jairo Iriarte

Just Baseball’s 81st-ranked prospect, Jairo Iriarte was the second pitching prospect Chicago netted in this deal, and like Thorpe, he has been even more impressive than expected. He showed high-end stuff last season but came to Chicago with reliever concern due to his command. Right now, Iriarte looks like he can be a very good starting pitcher.

The command is still coming along, but he has shown excellent feel for his high-movement fastball and sharp slider while flashing a changeup that has continually improved. Iriarte’s changeup may be the key to him taking the next step, but he has been nearly as good as Thorpe while pitching in Double-A at just 22 years old.

In his first five starts with the organization, Iriarte has a 1.46 ERA with 28 strikeouts across 24.2 innings pitched. Furthermore, he did not allow a single earned run in his first three starts and has given up just 17 total hits. His walks (12 so far this season) are still an area of concern, but Iriarte has allowed very minimal hard contact and has slowly improved upon the control.

He pitched seven full innings in his most recent start after not going more than five frames in any of his first four starts. His efficiency improved, but he did allow more hits than he had all season prior to that start.

Each start has had different impressive elements to it, but Iriarte has been excellent overall.

His fastball, while down a tick in velocity, has flashed plenty of movement and generates ample whiff. The slider has been his go-to offspeed with its sharp depth causing plenty of trouble. He has thrown the changeup less than he did last season and will need to put more emphasis on the pitch in order to remain a starting pitcher long-term.

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Iriarte is not nearly as polished as Thorpe, but at 22 years old with Double-A experience already, he’s on a great track.

Samuel Zavala

The third prospect, outfielder Samuel Zavala, is just 19 years old and flashed impressive approach and athleticism in his first full professional season last year. He excelled in Single-A with nearly 100 walks and 14 home runs before reaching High-A at the end of the year.

He’s off to a relatively slow start in High-A with his new club but has still flashed elements of his potential with nine extra-base hits, 10 walks, four stolen bases, and impressive outfield defense. At his age, the White Sox will be patient with his development. After all, he’s the third prospect from the deal, with two ahead of him that should reach MLB this year or early next.

Acquiring a younger raw player with upside as a secondary or tertiary part of a trade is a rather logical move. Zavala is just that, and with the early success of Thorpe and Iriarte, he’s still a great third piece.

Even veteran reliever Steven Wilson, added into the trade as more of a depth piece, has been one of the better bullpen arms for Chicago this season and should net a flyer prospect for the Sox at the trade deadline.

Dylan Cease has rebounded from an unlucky 2023 and looks like an ace in San Diego, but the White Sox were able to secure two pitchers who could both be significant parts of their future, an outfielder with ample room to grow, and a veteran who can turn into another prospect.

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All things considered, that’s a win for a team that is not going to seriously compete in the next two years in which they would have had Cease. It’s unlikely that Cease was going to sign an extension with Chicago, and they seemingly cashed in at the right time with Thorpe and Iriarte appearing to be a big part of the future pitching staff.

It’s still too early to have a fully set opinion on this trade, as none of the prospects have made it to MLB. Still, at this point, it appears to be a win-win.