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Dylan Cease trade: Padres nearing agreement to acquire White Sox ace in massive rotation upgrade, per report

The San Diego Padres are nearing an agreement to acquire right-handed starter Dylan Cease from the Chicago White Sox, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. Headed back to Chicago are right-handed pitching prospects Drew Thorpe, who was acquired in December as part of the Juan Soto trade, and Jairo Iriarte, outfield prospect Samuel Zavala and major-league reliever Steven Wilson, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

In 2022, the 28-year-old Cease pitched to a 2.20 ERA with 227 strikeouts in 184 innings and led American League pitchers with 6.4 WAR. He finished second in the Cy Young voting to Justin Verlander, who won the award unanimously. Cease took a step back in 2023, throwing 177 innings with 214 strikeouts and an unsightly 4.58 ERA. Chicago’s league-worst defense did him no favors.

The Padres had a clear need an impact starter after losing 60% of their rotation to free agency. Cease figures to join Joe Musgrave and Mike King, obtained in the Juan Soto deal with the New York Yankees, to serve as the backbone of San Diego’s starting five. Cease is one of only five pitchers to record 200 strikeouts in each of the last three seasons, joining Corbin BurnesGerrit ColeKevin Gausman, and Aaron NolaOur R.J. Anderson recently explained why Cease is such a prize and it boils down to his premium bat-missing stuff, his room for growth, and his two affordable seasons of team control as an arbitration-eligible player.

The Padres will kick off Major League Baseball’s new season on March 20 with a two-game set in Seoul, South Korea against the Los Angeles Dodgers.  

The White Sox went 61-101 this past season and longtime executives Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn were fired in August. Chris Getz, formerly the team’s assistant general manager, was elevated to run baseball operations. In his first offseason, Getz did very little to the roster, with the highlights of the winter being the Aaron Bummer trade and signing Martín Maldonado and Paul De Jong. Instead, he held on to desirable players including All-Star center fielder Luis Robert, who would fetch a massive haul, and others like Garrett Crochet, Eloy Jiménez and Yoán Moncada. Along with Jiménez, Cease originally joined the White Sox in the José Quintana trade with the crosstown rival Chicago Cubs in the weeks leading up to the 2017 trade deadline.

The key pieces to the deal for the White Sox are the three prospects. Thorpe is a former second-round pick and a changeup artist who posted a 2.52 ERA and 4.79 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 139 innings split across High- and Double-A. He has middle-of-the-rotation upside. Ditto for Iriarte, who pairs a mid-90s fastball with a good slider. Iriarte has struggled with his command, due in part to a long arm stroke, and he could remain walk-prone heading forward. Zavala, meanwhile, is a 19-year-old outfielder with above-average strength and some strikeout issues.

Wilson, for his part, made more than 100 appearances at the big-league level for the Padres over the last two years. He compiled a 114 ERA+ and a 2.34 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He relies heavily on his sweeping slider and has four years of team control remaining, making him a potential trade candidate for the foreseeable future. 

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