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Can The Red Sox Deal For A Long-Term Ace?

Let’s figure out how to get Dylan Cease on this team

We finally got our first big trade of the 2023 deadline season, as the “Wow, things really got out of hand” White Sox traded Lucas Giolito to the “I guess we’re doing this?” Angels of Anaheim. The Red Sox, reportedly, were not in the mix. If you read between the lines of what Chaim Bloom and Sam Kennedy have been saying, it’s easy to understand why: Giolito is a free agent this offseason, and Bloom and company seem completely uninterested in rentals. Instead, Bloom is talking about adding to the core, meaning, in all likelihood, only going after players with several years of control remaining on their contracts.

But who exactly would those players be and what would they cost on the trading market? Let’s take a look at a few pitchers from likely sellers and use the Giolito deal as a baseline to guess at possible trade combinations.

The Angels sent two prospects, catcher Edgar Quero and pitcher Ky Bush, for Giolito and big league reliever Reynaldo Lopez, who has good stuff but has struggled with walks and homers this season while being used primarily in the seventh inning. Quero, who has spent the year at AA, is generally considered a top-100 prospect, though he hasn’t really advanced above the 70-80 range on anyone’s list. Bush is struggling in his second tour of AA, but was a top-10 prospect within the Angels organization and was selected to participate in last year’s Futures Game.

The Red Sox equivalent of Quero and Bush is probably something like Nick Yorke and Shane Drohan: one top-100 hitter with questions about his ceiling and defense, and one pitcher with the potential to be a number 4 or 5 starter in the big leagues.

Would the Sox be willing to part with Yorke and Drohan for an arm who would stick around a little longer? Let’s take a look at the potential targets.

Dylan Cease

Contract Status: Signed through 2025

2023 Stats: 4.04 ERA, 3.63 FIP, 109 ERA+, 3.7 BB9, 10.9 SO9

What It might take: If two months of Giolito netted the White Sox a top-100 guy, two years and two months of Dylan Cease would net the White Sox a lot more than that. I think they would probably ask for something like Ceddanne Rafaela, Nick Yorke, and Miguel Bleis. Though it’s possible that one of those three could be swapped out for a slightly lesser-pedigreed prospect like Wikelman Gonzalez or Mikey Romero.

Would Bloom do it? You know what? I actually think he might — especially if he can do it while holding onto the high-ceilinged trio of Bleis, Marcelo Mayer, and Roman Anthony.

Cease is having a disappointing season after finishing second in the AL Cy Young voting last year. But many of his underlying metrics remain more or less unchanged. His strikeout and walk rates are nearly identical to last year and he’s still missing bats at an elite level, with the sixth-best strikeout rate in baseball.

Cease’s problem this year has been that, when batters are making contact, they’re hitting the ball hard. After maintaining an excellent average exit velocity of just 84.6 MPH last year, hitters are now reaching 90.7 off him. His velocity has slipped a touch, but there are no injury concerns. Rather, it could be a mechanical issue that’s caused his fastball to lose its shape.

Mechanical issues, theoretically, can be fixed, and if Cease returns to Cy Young contender status next season, no one would be all that surprised. That means that this might be an opportunity for Bloom to do something he loves: buy low and hope for surplus value.

As for the return to the White Sox, it’s a steep price. But there are still major questions about Rafaela’s approach at the plate and, with the emergence of Duran, center field is no longer a glaring hole at the big league level. Likewise, Yorke finds himself in a crowded middle infield situation, with Trevor Story locked up long-term, and Marcelo Mayer and Mikey Romero climbing the ladder in the minors. And for all the talk about Bleis looking like Ronald Acuna Jr., he is still worlds away from the big leagues and has been made somewhat more expendable by the emergence of Roman Anthony.

A 2024-25 rotation fronted by Cease, Brayan Bello, and a free agent pickup like Julio Urias or Yoshinobu Yamamoto could be one of the best in the league, regardless of what happens with question marks like Chris Sale, Garrett Whitlock, and pending free agent James Paxton. If Cease is on the table, Bloom should think long and hard about making it happen.

Eduardo Rodriguez

Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Contract Status: Signed for three more years, but with an opt-out after this season

2023 stats: 2.95 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 148 ERA+, 2.1 BB9, 9.3 SO9

What it might take: Ceddanne Rafaela (or Yorke) and Shane Drohan

Would Bloom do it? This would be extremely similar to the trade that just sent Lucas Giolito to the Angels. Giolito is a rental, and we’ve already established that Bloom doesn’t want rentals, so no, he probably wouldn’t do this. But there is one factor to consider here, in that it’s theoretically possible that E-Rod doesn’t opt-out after this season. I do think Bloom would consider this deal if E-Rod was locked up for three years. So in a world where E-Rod tells the Sox that he misses Boston and Alex Cora and just wants to come back home because he can’t find a brewery as good as Trillium out in Detroit . . . then maybe they come to an agreement about forgoing the opt-out and make the deal.

But E-Rod was one of the best pitchers in the AL early this year before going down with an injury. He’d likely be leaving a lot of money on the table. That’s not going to happen.

Justin Verlander

New York Mets v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Contract Status: Signed through 2024 with vesting option for 2025.

2023 stats: 3.24 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 3 BB9, 7.7 SO9

What it might take: This is a tough one to read. Verlander is having a solid season, but his performance has taken a notable step down from his years with Astros. He’s not quite JUSTIN VERLANDER anymore, though he’s being paid like he is, albeit for only a short term. He also has a no-trade clause. Moreover, the return package would vary greatly based on how much money the Mets might be willing to assume. We’re probably talking about two top-100 guys, but not at the same level as Cease requires. Let’s say Yorke and Rafaela.

Would Bloom do it? I don’t think so. Verlander isn’t cooked, but he might be before this current contract runs out. You don’t add to a core with 40-year-olds, even if they are the best pitcher of their generation.

Aaron Civale

Kansas City Royals v Cleveland Guardians Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

Contract Status: arbitration-eligible through 2025.

2023 stats: 2.54 ERA, 3.61 FIP, 164 ERA+, 6.8 SO9, 2.5 BB9

What it might take: New England National Team ace Aaron Civale is roughly the same age as Dylan Cease (28 and 27, respectively). Civale is out-pitching Cease this year, but Cease has the stronger track record and better raw stuff. So let’s take the proposed Cease deal and downgrade it a notch: Ceddanne Rafaela, Nick Yorke, and Shane Drohan.

Would Bloom do it? Maaaayyyybee? As I said, there are a lot of similarities between potential Civale and Cease deals. The difference here, though, is that while Cease is having a down year, Civale is having the best year of his career. Bloom is a value shopper, and you don’t get value trading for guys coming off career years.

And weirdly enough, I’m not sure whether this would be enough for Cleveland. The Guardians are still in the postseason hunt, and they have every reason to believe that they will remain competitive in the weak AL Central for years to come. It may take more to pry Civale from Cleveland than Cease from Chicago. While Rafaela, Yorke, an Drohan are well regarded prospects, there are at least three guys in the Sox system with higher ceilings: Marcelo Mayer, Roman Anthony, and Miguel Bleis. I think Cleveland would shoot for one of them, and still may be reluctant to deal regardless.

So there we go. Is Chaim Bloom ready to start dealing some prospects to bolster the MLB team? That’s the fascinating question of this trade deadline, and it’s what Bryan and I discussed at the top of the latest Monsters of Sox Podcast. We also discussed the season-defining series sweep of the Atlanta Braves, Bryan’s budding new career as self-help author, and annoying driving habits.

As always, thanks for listening.

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