Trade #1 - The search for the Cardinals' ace can now "Cease"
Cardinals receive: RHP Dylan Cease
White Sox receive: UTL Brendan Donovan, RHP Tink Hence, RHP Gordon Graceffo
Ugh. I love Brendan Donovan. Seriously, he's one of, if not my favorite, Cardinals on this roster. He plays the game the right way, is massively underrated, and was on an absolute tear for the Cardinals before his season-ending elbow surgery. But the Cardinals need a guy like Dylan Cease badly, so a package has to be considered.
I could see the White Sox not budging unless Nolan Gorman is involved, which if that were the case, I'd change this deal to look more like Gorman and Hence or Gorman, Graceffo, and a smaller piece or two for Cease, but in this scenario, the White Sox take Donovan as the headline Major League piece.
Donovan would make a lot of sense for the White Sox. They need a second baseman, but could also use him all over the field as they figure out what the future of their position player core will look like. Their top prospect, Colson Montgomery, is the 17th-ranked prospect in all of baseball and projects to be their future shortstop or third baseman. Together, the two of them give the White Sox great building blocks for the future offensively.
The other thing that I think would be appealing about Donovan to the White Sox is his leadership and character. It's clear that Donovan would set the tone for any team he was on for how to play the right way, something that the White Sox dugout desperately needs.
The Cardinals also part with right-handed pitching prospects Tink Hence and Gordon Graceffo in this deal. Hence is the 42nd-ranked prospect in baseball according to MLB.com, and has electric stuff as a starter. There are still concerns about whether or not he will stick in a rotation long-term, and what exactly his ceiling is as a starter. It's tough to trade away a pitching prospect like Hence, but if the Cardinals are getting Cease in return, I feel better about it.
Graceffo followed up his meteoric rise in 2022 with a disappointing 2023 season but still has the makings of a middle or back-of-the-rotation starter in the future. The trio of Donovan, Hence, and Graceffo gives the White Sox a ton of club control and three building blocks for their rebuild.
The Cardinals take a hit offensively but still have a core of Goldschmidt, Arenado, Contreras, Walker, Gorman, and Nootbaar to rely on. With Thomas Saggese making his way to St. Louis soon and looking like a similar player to Donovan, he could fill his role on the team over time.
This is a painful trade to make, but Cease gives the Cardinals a cost-controlled, front-line starter for two years. He had a down 2023 on a weird White Sox team but is just one year removed from a 2.20 ERA and second-place Cy Young finish and is a guy who eats a lot of innings. His stuff did not take a step back in 2023, leaving many to believe he'll be back to form in 2024.