The San Diego Padres starting rotation has taken a hit this offseason. While Blake Snell has yet to sign with a new club, the 2023 NL Cy Young Award-winner isn't coming back America's Finest City next season.
In addition to Snell, the Padres have lost Nick Martinez, Seth Lugo, and Michael Wacha. Throw in veteran left-hander Rich Hill, and the Friars have lost 64 starts and over 400 innings from their 2023 squad. There is hope that a healthy Joe Musgrove can help lengthen San Diego's rotation. But Ryan Weathers is now in South Beach and Yu Darvish is 37 years old.
While free agent spending has been rather tight this winter, the trade market offers Padres President of Baseball Operations A.J. Preller and opportunity to swing a deal for one of the top starters in Major League Baseball. Could the Padres be a dark horse to trade for Chicago White Sox pitcher Dylan Cease?
Could Padres sneak into Dylan Cease trade sweepstakes?
There's reason to believe that the San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox could be a perfect match. The Padres have shown in the past that they're unafraid to take risks, and the only baseball exectuive who's more unpredictable than A.J. Preller is Jerry Dipoto of the Seattle Mariners.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post is reporting that the White Sox are seeking three premium prospects in exchange for Dylan Cease. That's quite the hefty asking price for a pitcher who's never been to an All-Star Game. However, Cease was a finalist for the 2022 AL Cy Young Award, and has been one of the most durable starters in the league for the past three seasons.
Cease is also under team control for two more seasons. So while that price tag may be high, San Diego would have Cease in their rotation to for two seasons before the right-hander entered free agency. MLB Trade Rumors projects that Cease will make $8.8 million through arbitration in 2024.
Despite some aggressive trades over the past few seasons, MLB Pipeline rates the Padres' farm system among the Top 10 in baseball. San Diego currently has six prospects ranked among the Top 100, including Ethan Salas, Dylan Lesko, and Jackson Merrill.
Of course, teams like the Baltimore Orioles and Cincinnati Reds have been linked to Dylan Cease trade rumors all offseason, but nothing has quite materialized just yet. Those two clubs typically take a much more conservative approach, which would allow the San Diego Padres to swoop in and grab a frontline starter to plug in atop their rotation.
There are plenty of starters still available on the open market that wouldn't cost the Padres an arm and leg in terms of prospect capital. But with San Diego already committed to so much in payroll over the next decade, the Padres might be unwilling to nab a top-of-the-rotation starter through free agency. Trading for Cease offers the Padres an alternative and may be their best option.