If the MLB offseason were like any other sport, the St. Louis Cardinals and the rest of baseball would have done the majority of their moves during a one-week period. But alas, it moves like molasses, and that is especially true this year due to the slow-moving free agencies of Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and now the Scott Boras clients.
If the free agent market is molasses, then the trade market has been at a snail's pace, but according to a new report from The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal (subscription required), the White Sox are weighing offers from teams on Dylan Cease and the Cardinals are "possibly in the mix".
Earlier this offseason, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (subscription required) noted the Cardinals' interest as well, and it's been reported nationally among other outlets as well. Not just "oh, this could make sense" kind of reports, but legitimate interest from the Cardinals in a potential move for Cease. How strong is that interest? Time will tell. But they are at least among the five teams still interested at the moment.
With the Cincinnati Reds dropping out of the race recently and a lack of a clear-cut suitor emerging, it's felt like the White Sox and Cardinals could end up being the best match for each other. The Cardinals have young MLB-proven bats like Nolan Gorman or Brendan Donovan who could headline a package, or they could work toward a more prospect-centric deal featuring names like Thomas Saggese, Tink Hence, or other top names in the system.
A few days ago on the Noot News Podcast, I created a trade package for Cease that saw the White Sox getting a strong package of prospects while St. Louis was able to hold onto both Gorman and Donovan, you can check out that conversation and other trade ideas in the video below (Cease trade starts at the 7:15 min mark). We are also going live today at 10:30 am CT to discuss this latest news, as well as the recent news of Tommy Edman's wrist surgery on our YouTube channel.
While you'll need to check out Rosenthal's piece to get the full breakdown of Cease's market, Rosenthal did note that he also believed the Reds were out of the mix as well as the Atlanta Braves. If the Cardinals want Cease, the deal is there for them to make, and it all depends on how aggressive John Mozeliak and company are willing to get.
Other names on that list have strong assets to offer, so it won't be an easy task to outbid the other contenders, but assuming the other clubs don't massively overpay for Cease, the Cardinals should make their strongest possible offer and be confident that it can get a deal done.
The Cardinals' offseason additions thus far of Sonny Gray, Kyle Gibson, and Lance Lynn will help stabilize this rotation and help them be a contender in the National League Central and Wild Card for a playoff spot, but to be anything more than that, they'll need another top-end starter to pair with Gray to go toe to toe with the best staff's in baseball in October.
I'll be fascinated to see if the White Sox will require one of Gorman or Donovan to be in the trade to make a deal work. If so, I would be hesitant to pull the trigger if I were the Cardinals, but depending on what other pieces would be required, it may be worth losing one of those bats to get that pitching they desperately need. I still believe, especially since the White Sox are facing a long rebuild, that the Cardinals could make a strong package with top prospects instead to pull off a blockbuster with Chicago.
According to recent reports, the White Sox asked the Reds for four of their top ten prospects, one of which is a top-100 prospect in baseball (Rhett Lowder). While it's not as simple as just comparing prospect lists for this asking price, Cardinals' prospect Tink Hence is just one spot lower than Lowder on the MLB Top 100 list, so a package around him, Thomas Saggese, and two other prospects in the Cardinals top 10 seems like a very similar offer to what the White Sox wanted from Cincinnati.
The free agent and trade markets should be heating up now, and I would keep a close eye on the White Sox and Cease in the coming days. Hopefully, the Cardinals are able to make an aggressive offer here soon and pull off the deal most fans want them to make.