Making the right trade decision for the Cardinals: Dylan Cease or Jesus Luzardo?

The St. Louis Cardinals could use another high-end starting pitcher, and Jesus Luzardo and Dylan Cease are both available. Which pitcher is the better choice?
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Dylan Cease

Making a case for Dylan Cease is pretty easy; he placed second in the American League Cy Young race in 2022, he has started at least thirty-two games each year for the past three seasons, and he has a K rate that is significantly above league average for his career.

The case against Dylan Cease isn't necessarily related to his performance, but rather it's related to Chicago White Sox ownership. New General Manager Chris Getz is willing to trade away any of his players, but he is asking for a king's ransom in exchange for his ace. The Cardinals have the prospect capital to make a trade, but would they be wise to give up two or more potential MLB regulars for just two years of Dylan Cease?

Prospects are volatile, yes, but starting pitchers can go down at any point, especially with upticks in velocity recently and the pitch clock accelerating pitchers. It's no guarantee that prospects such as Tekoah Roby or Tink Hence turn out to be as good or better than an established player like Dylan Cease.

Across the past two seasons, Dylan Cease has pitched a total of 361 innings with a 3.37 ERA, 3.40 FIP, 1.260 WHIP, and an ERA+ of 125. Those numbers are heavily bolstered by a tremendous 2022 season, but he was no slouch last year either. He had a 28.8% strikeout rate and a 10.3% walk rate in that same span. His walk rate is worse than league average, but his high K rate makes up for that.

Cease hasn't faced a major injury in his career (excluding Tommy John Surgery in high school), so he has proven himself to be quite durable. There may be some concern with his fastball velocity, as it lost some power behind it last year, and he gave up a career-high average exit velocity against of 90 MPH last year.

Dylan Cease would cost the Cardinals their prized prospects, and at least two of those prospects will likely come from the team's top 100. That would be a blow to a farm system that just got back on track. It could be worth the gamble, but I don't think it's quite worth it trading for Dylan Cease either this offseason or at the trade deadline.