Why the White Sox Could Hold Their Best Trade Chip, Dylan Cease, Into 2024

There are plenty of reasons why the Chicago White Sox may wait to trade starting pitcher Dylan Cease until the trade deadline in 2024.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 12: Dylan Cease #84 of the Chicago White Sox delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at Guaranteed Rate Field on September 12, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

For all of the mock trades and rumors floating out there surrounding Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Dylan Cease, there is a simple truth that is sometimes overlooked by any fanbase itching to have the coveted right-hander as a part of their team’s rotation.

With two years still left of team control, and Cease making just $5.7 million last season (per Spotrac) in his first round of arbitration, he doesn’t have to be jettisoned from the South Side of Chicago any time soon.

While the White Sox are certainly remaking the look of their team with offseason trades that include a November swap with the Atlanta Braves, having Cease as a part of the roster when they open the season on March 28 at home against the Detroit Tigers isn’t necessarily a far-fetched idea.

The 28-year-old Cease is coming off a season where he started 33 games and posted an ERA+ of 97, far below his career average of 113.

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Certainly it’s the 2022 season when Cease finished second in the American League Cy Young balloting, while posting a 2.20 ERA/3.10 FIP/1.109 WHIP in 184.0 innings, that has other teams salivating about what he could do for them in 2024 and beyond.

However, for teams to reach that level of potential nirvana and have Cease as a part of their future, they are going to have to pay up in big ways when it comes to prospects.

So far this offseason, teams that could be fits such as the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds haven’t met that price tag.

And what is that price tag exactly? It has been reported that the White Sox are asking for “three premium prospects” in exchange for Cease. With those two years of team control coming with Cease’s highly coveted skills, Chicago can sit back and wait for teams to put their best offers forward.

If the White Sox don’t consider a team’s prospects “premium” enough, they can simply reject the offer and count the days until Cease and the rest of the pitchers report to Arizona for spring training.

After a somewhat ho-hum year in 2023 (4.58 ERA/3.72 FIP/1.418 WHIP in 177.0 innings), it’s conceivable that Cease could actually increase his trade value for the White Sox by having a strong start to the 2024 campaign. Teams looking to compete as the MLB trade deadline (set for July 30 this season) draws near may be more apt to spend to get Cease than they are now.

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It is a bet the White Sox may be willing to make. After all, Cease has historically been stronger in the first half of the season (3.52 ERA and 1.272 WHIP in 57 starts) than he has after the All-Star break (4.11 ERA and 1.314 WHIP in 54 starts), so Chicago rolling the bones on a strong start for Cease in 2024 and waiting for teams to push their chips to the center of the table around the All-Star break is certainly possible.

Granted, the move would carry risk with it as Cease is healthy right now and that could change during any start this season. However, the White Sox have one chance to get a deal right, and new general manager Chris Getz realizes that Cease represents his top trade chip by far.

In this game of who will blink first, Chicago holds all of the cards and leverage.

If the White Sox got five players for reliever Aaron Bummer back in November, what is the actual ceiling of a trade return for Cease? That’s the burning question right now, and one that could keep Cease in Chicago for longer than many fans outside of the Second City hope.