Today’s the last full day before the trade deadline arrives at 5 p.m. Tuesday, and while the White Sox have done plenty by shipping out five players over the course of three trades …
- Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly to the Dodgers
- Kendall Graveman to the Astros
- Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo López to the Angels
… plenty of work remains.
There’s the matter the White Sox still have impending free agents who might be useful elsewhere:
Keynan Middleton: The league may have adjusted to Middleton’s revamped arsenal, because he’s given up nine runs over 8⅓ innings over the month of July, including four homers. Jon Morosi and Bob Nightengale both said on Saturday that Middleton is drawing trade interest in spite of the regression.
Yasmani Grandal: He’s hitting .251/.317/.382, which isn’t terrible for a catcher, and although he crash-landed into the All-Star break, the time off seemed to work wonders, as he’s 10-for-37 with two homers, a double and four walks over his last 11 games. Given the state of catcher hitting across baseball, it’s not unreasonable to think a handful of clubs wouldn’t mind him as a second catcher for a couple months, especially if the White Sox kick in some cash.
Mike Clevinger: The White Sox seemed hellbent on avoiding a rehab stint despite Clevinger missing six weeks with a biceps injury, but maybe it’s because they were hoping that he could provide a showcase for pitching-starved teams before the deadline. Five scoreless, walkless innings against the Guardians is about the best the Sox could’ve hoped for.
Given how little the White Sox have to play for the rest of the way, the question isn’t whether these players should be traded, but rather how deep the White Sox should keep cutting. Guys like Tim Anderson and Aaron Bummer count in this discussion, but Dylan Cease looks like the biggest subject of debate among reporters’ sources.
Last week, Nightengale said a few times that the White Sox would not entertain offers for Cease:
Wednesday: “Several teams who have checked in with the Chicago White Sox to inquire about the availability of ace Dylan Cease say they continue to get the same response: ‘No.’ The White Sox are not interested in a massive rebuild and still hope to contend next year.”
Wednesday again: “The Chicago White Sox will trade veteran starter Lance Lynn next, but ace Dylan Cease is staying put.”
Saturday: “The Chicago White Sox, who have already traded five pitchers, have just one more remaining pitcher who could also depart: Keynan Middleton. Teams keep asking for ace Dylan Cease and left-handed reliever Aaron Bummer, but the White Sox are keeping them.”
And it’s probably likely that Nightengale is correct, but Ken Rosenthal said the White Sox sound more open to the idea of trading Cease than Nightengale believes.
The White Sox are listening on Dylan Cease and everyone else on their roster. The perception among many in the industry is that Cease and center fielder Luis Robert Jr. remain all but untouchable. But some rival executives see the White Sox’s willingness to entertain offers as an opening, however small.
In the White Sox’s view, nothing has changed. They are simply doing their due diligence, staying open-minded, assessing the values of players and what might be possible. A trade of Cease, a 2022 American League Cy Young finalist who is under club control for two additional seasons, would require a massive return. But given the demand for controllable starting pitching, who’s to say the White Sox couldn’t get what they want?
I’m of the mind that the Sox have a price on Cease that some teams can and might actually meet, because he has a 4.15 ERA and hasn’t pitched beyond 6⅓ innings in any start this season, which is a big reason why he’s already set a career high in no-decisions (14) with upwards of 10 starts remaining. He’s lacked his biggest fastball for most of the year …
- 2019: 53 fastballs 98+ mph
- 2020: 161
- 2021: 211
- 2022: 181
- 2023: 7
… and that’s kept him from reaching the kind of Cy Young runner-up success he had. When he doesn’t have his best fastball, some swinging strikes become foul balls, some pop-ups became well-struck flies, and his slider doesn’t quite play up the same, either.
None of these are reasons to sell for the sake of selling, because Cease remains hard to hit while taking the ball every five days, and the market for pitchers suggests those attributes remain in demand. There’s just no particular reason for the White Sox to remove a Cease trade from the possibilities when plotting out potential road maps for the next few seasons, because with three other rotation spots in flux and Michael Kopech’s future as a starter in doubt, Cease would have to become a practically perfect pitcher in order to make up for all the flaws elsewhere.