Dylan Cease trade shows Padres, AJ Preller got the most out of Juan Soto deal

Maybe the Padres' President of Baseball Operations knew what he was doing after all.
San Diego Padres pitcher Dylan Cease
San Diego Padres pitcher Dylan Cease / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages

The San Diego Padres' trade for Dylan Cease was met with some resistance, both from the Friar faithful and the national media. Not so much the acquisition itself, but the price tag attached to it. The Padres paid a steep price for a highly-coveted arm that no one else wanted to pay, and AJ Preller's recent track record is not stellar.

But the Padres were the team that eventually emerged from the negotiations victorious. In return, the Chicago White Sox received Drew Thorpe, Jairo Iriarte, Samuel Zavala and Steven Wilson. Thorpe was the crown jewel of the trade package, and a player that the Friars had previously received from the New York Yankees in exchange for Juan Soto.

But that's the cost of doing business in the big leagues. After seeing the hot start that Cease has enjoyed during his brief tenure in San Diego, Pads fans may be more forgiving of Preller.

Dylan Cease acquisition shows Padres' AJ Preller got the most out of Juan Soto trade

Preller has been a punching bag of sorts this offseason, and frankly, throughout his entire tenure as the head man in San Diego. The Friars' top executive is unafraid to pull the trigger on any deal, so long as he believes it will help the Padres win.

Sometimes those moves come back to haunt him. After seeing what the Padres gave up for 1.5 years of Soto, the Friar faithful will be tough to win back. CJ Abrams has been crushing baseballs for the Washington Nationals this season, and James Wood looks like he could hit 40-plus home runs every season.

But Cease's acquisition, for now, appears to be a fantastic addition to the roster. The right-hander has made four starts, owns a 1.99 ERA, and has 27 strikeouts over 22.2 innings of work. Cease has given manager Mike Shildt a quality start the last three times he's toed the rubber.

It's much too early to do a deep-dive into the 2024 NL Cy Young candidates, but Cease's name is surely in the conversation. Only four starters have a lower ERA through the first few weeks of the season and all of them have allowed more hits than Cease. The Padres starter also leads that group in punchouts, and is top five among all National League pitchers in that category.

There's one thing for Preller to do if he hopes to put the fallout from the Soto trade behind him, and that's figuring out a way to secure Cease to a long-term extension. The 28-year-old is under contract through next season, so there's plenty of time remaining to work that out. But the early returns have been nothing but spectacular, and that's a huge plus given the offense is doing its job without Soto.

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