With the St. Louis Cardinals turning their attention to the trade market over the coming weeks, opportunities for them to improve their rotation or bullpen are all around. One of the biggest names available via trade this offseason is White Sox starter Dylan Cease, who Jon Morsoi is reporting may be moved before the Winter Meetings begin.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required) is hearing that White Sox general manager Chris Getz would like to wait out the top end of the pitching market before dealing Cease, which makes a lot of sense. He also reported that the Cardinals remain interested in trading for Cease.
The Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, and Baltimore Orioles have all been rumored destinations for Cease in recent weeks, with the Braves and Dodgers appearing to be the two most aggressive teams thus far. If the Cardinals want to bring Dylan Cease to St. Louis though, they should have no problem outbidding their competition.
First, if the White Sox truly wait out the market, this actually plays right into the Cardinals' hands. Teams like the Braves, Dodgers, Reds, and Orioles may not be able to wait out Cease's market, forcing their hand to go after free-agent starters or other players available on the trade market. It does not mean they wouldn't remain interested in Cease, but one or two of those teams could already have their rotation needs figured out before a Cease deal happens.
The Cardinals are in a position to strike on another rotation upgrade, but won't feel the same desperation as those clubs. They can afford to wait things out and make a deal that makes sense for them.
When it comes to trade packages, the two most aggressive teams, the Braves and Dodgers, have less enticing offers for Cease in my opinion. According to MLB.com, the Braves have the 27th-ranked farm system in baseball, with AJ Smith-Shawver being their lone top-100 prospect. Even if the Braves decide to include him in a deal, the rest of their package would seem to be pretty light, with Vaughn Grissom being the other piece they are rumored to include.
The Dodgers, as always, have one of the top farm systems in baseball (ranked 6th overall) and have five top-100 prospects to deal from, as well as recent graduates like Miguel Vargas and Emmet Sheehan. They could put together a strong, well-rounded package for Chicago if they desired, one the Braves could not compete with.
But when you look at the Cardinals, the Braves and Dodgers do not have pieces like Nolan Gorman or Brendan Donovan that they could include in a deal. The Cardinals also have prospects like Tink Hence, Tekoah Roby, and Thomas Saggese who could be of interest to the White Sox. The Cardinals have all of the pieces to pull off a deal with the White Sox, the question is just whether or not they feel compelled to do so.
Now, the Orioles and Reds do have two of the strongest farm systems in baseball and young talent galore on their roster, so if either team wants to make an aggressive offer, it may be difficult for the Cardinals to match. Not because they can't, but because they do not have the same level of desperation those two clubs would have for an ace like Cease. Neither club tends to make super aggressive trades dealing away top prospects though, so I'm not sure how likely it is they put their best offers out there.
With their additions of Sonny Gray, Kyle Gibson, and Lance Lynn, the Cardinals can enter negotiations with the White Sox with leverage. This is something I talked about this week on the Noot News Podcast, as now the White Sox cannot strong-arm the Cardinals into giving up too much in return for Cease.
Of those names I listed above, the Cardinals would not need to give up many of them to present the strongest package. One of Gorman or Donovan, one higher-end prospect, and some other pieces can give them the leg up in these negotiations. I put together five potential packages for Cease that I think would get a deal done.
I'm going to keep a close eye on Cease in the coming days to see if the Cardinals make a strong push for him. They may have their sights set elsewhere, but at the very least, they should be involved with talks and have real conversations internally about whether or not it's worth meeting the price on the trade market.
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