The MLB offseason free agent and trade markets are starting to get rolling, now that the Winter Meetings have come to a close. More names are being officially linked to teams and the asking prices are starting to come out.
The Philadelphia Phillies are in the market for another starting pitcher, even if it's not the highest priority after Aaron Nola's re-signing. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said as much in Nashville this week, per The Philadelphia Inquirer's Alex Coffey.
“It’s not that it’s not on our agenda," Dombrowski said about starting pitching. "I’ve got the list of names and all that, but I’m hopeful we’ll be able to add more, yes.”
One pitcher whose name has continually appeared in trade speculation around the league is Chicago White Sox starter Dylan Cease. However, the recently divulged asking price for the 27-year-old is, for now, set at such an outrageous level that the Phillies won't, hopefully, even bother picking up the phone to call Sox general manager Chris Getz.
According to Bruce Levine, an analyst for WSCR-AM and 670 The Score in Chicago, the White Sox asked the Cincinnati Reds for four high-end prospects, including their No. 2 prospect, right-handed pitcher Rhett Lowder, and their No. 6 prospect Chase Petty, another right-hander.
Chicago also asked for the Reds' ninth- and eleventh-ranked position prospects: No. 13 catcher Alfredo Duno and No. 17 outfielder Jay Allen II.
The reason for the high price tag? The arbitration-eligible Cease is under team control for two more seasons with a very attractive estimated 2024 salary of $8.8 million. Plus, Getz and the White Sox aren't feeling intense pressure to move their top starter immediately as they wait for the market to play out, per MLB Network's Jon Heyman.
To put that asking price in perspective for the Phillies, that would be like Dombrowski and general manager Sam Fuld having to ship off No. 2 prospect Mick Abel and No. 5 Griff McGarry, both right-handed pitchers. They'd also have to throw in their No. 15 prospect, catcher Caleb Ricketts, and let's say an outfield prospect like Emaarion Boyd (No. 12), Ethan Wilson (No. 16), or maybe Devin Saltiban (No. 18).
It's obviously not an apples-to-apples comparison, as Chicago might value the Phillies' assets differently than they view the Reds' prospects, but you get the idea.
It would be a steep price to pay for a starter who, despite his brilliant 2022 campaign and his career 10.83 K/9 and 28.1 percent strikeout rate, continually struggles to find the zone and issues an abundance of walks.
Even in his Cy Young-worthy season last year, the righty led the Majors in free passes with 78, just as he did in the shortened 2020 season with 34. He has a career 4.02 BB/9 and a 10.4 percent walk rate.
The Phillies, surveying the early offseason trade market for the top starters like Cease, are likely relieved that they were able to secure their guy Nola for another seven years and solidify the top of the rotation for the 2024 season.
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