Chicago Cubs: Hayden Wesneski, RHP
Hayden Wesneski was unable to follow up on his strong 2021 rookie campaign, as he lost his spot in the Chicago Cubs rotation in June of 2022 after a 5.33 ERA in 10 games and received a demotion to Triple-A in early July. The Cubs have a young rotation consisting of Justin Steele, Javier Assad and Jordan Wicks, and some combination of veterans Marcus Stroman, Drew Smyly and Kyle Hendricks could also return, leaving little room for Wesneski.
Wesneski's best pitch is the sweeper, which he deployed successfully, eliciting a .140 average against it last season. Wesneski also possesses a sinker, the pitch the Cardinals emphasized for their arms over the past several seasons. If he can utilize it more effectively, he could induce more groundouts from left-handed hitters, whom he struggled against in 2023, allowing a .298 average.
The Cubs are not a likely trade partner given the division rivalry with the Cardinals, but if Cody Bellinger departs in free agency, they may have a hole in center field that the Cardinals could supply a solution to. Wesneski was the Cubs' eighth-ranked prospect last season, so he still has enough shine on him that the Cardinals could see a way to unlock his potential.
Chicago White Sox: Dylan Cease, RHP
Dylan Cease's name was floated in trade rumors throughout the season, and although the Chicago White Sox didn't trade him at the deadline, it would be a surprise if he is not dealt in the offseason. Cease had an inflated ERA in 2023, as it increased from 2.20 to 4.58 despite similar peripherals to 2022. An inflated .331 BABIP was one of the culprits of the down season for the 2022 second-place AL Cy Young Award finisher.
Cease has the strikeout stuff that the Cardinals are reportedly looking for, and his whiff percentage was in the 84th percentile last season according to Baseball Savant. With two years of team control remaining, Cease is an attractive option for pitching-needy teams such as the Cardinals, and the White Sox' needs could force them to flip him.
The White Sox need outfielders and middle infielders — positions that are strengths for the Cardinals. A trade of Nolan Gorman, painful as it may be, could let the Cardinals net Cease and give them an immediate front-of-the-rotation option.