The Braves are among the teams in ongoing trade talks with the White Sox regarding right-hander Dylan Cease, reports USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. Atlanta had been connected to a pair of notable free agent starters, Aaron Nola and Sonny Gray, but Nola re-signed in Philadelphia last week and Gray is reportedly wrapping up a deal with the Cardinals today.
With their ostensible top two free-agent targets off the board, it’s not a surprise to see the Braves being more prominently connected to the trade market. Cease’s White Sox are generally open for business on the heels of a catastrophic 2023 season that led to the firing of longtime baseball ops executives Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams. Assistant GM Chris Getz has since been elevated to the GM’s chair, and Getz plainly stated following the season that there are no untouchables on his roster. Cease, with two remaining years of club control, is among the likelier and most appealing trade candidates Getz has at his disposal.
Cease, 28 next month, was the American League Cy Young runner-up in 2022 but had a down season in 2023 — one of the myriad factors which contributed to the disastrous season on Chicago’s south side. His 2022 campaign featured 184 frames of 2.20 ERA ball with a dominant 30.4% strikeout rate against a 10.4% walk rate, but that version of Cease appeared far too infrequently for the Sox’s liking in 2023. This past season saw the righty post a pedestrian 4.58 earned run average in 177 innings, showing diminished fastball velocity (95.8 mph, down from 96.9 mph a year prior) and a lesser strikeout rate (27.3%).
[Related: Looking for a Match in a Dylan Cease Trade]
Cease made a nominal improvement in his walk rate (10.1%), but virtually every other aspect of his profile backed up in ’23. His opponents’ average exit velocity and hard-hit rates exploded, jumping from 86.8 mph and 31.2% in 2022 to 90 mph and 41.5% in 2023. Both his swinging-strike and opponents’ chase rate dropped sharply as well, and Cease allowed an average of 0.97 homers per nine frames after yielding 0.76 HR/9 in 2022. He had some obvious struggles due to the poor defense behind him, with a career-high .330 average on balls in play (up from .260 the previous year), but that alone is not the driving force behind his struggles. Some of the BABIP spike was likely of his own doing anyhow; the uptick in hard contact he yielded certainly contributed to more balls finding their way through an already porous…