So what if Chicago White Sox ace Dylan Cease is a Milton, GA native? So what if the Atlanta Braves, ever on the prowl, are interested in his services? So what if Chicago is asking for the moon, while Atlanta is simply requesting a small donation to the Braves Foundation following Cease's forthcoming eight-year, $110 million extension?
The Dodgers are also reportedly in the bidding, and if they're willing to extend themselves slightly, their moon is way more appealing than Atlanta's. Considering Cease can't dictate his destination (yet), there's no reason Los Angeles shouldn't be more aggressive than Atlanta, armed with a far more impressive and deeper farm system that can satisfy any outlandish request.
Cease, the anti-Cody Bellinger, also managed to hit the trade market at an imperfect juncture. He finished second in the AL Cy Young balloting in 2022, but took marked steps back in 2023, finishing with a 4.58 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. You can goose the metrics all you want, but a strikeout artist who walks too many men (led MLB in 2022, his good season!) and surrenders too many hits (172 in 177 innings this year) doesn't get to be held to a Chris Sale-like standard on the trade market (and that bombshell package, uh, busted too).
According to MLB Trade Rumors' assessment of what might (or might not!) be tantalizing to the White Sox in a Cease swap, the Braves could dangle shortstop Vaughn Grissom (aka the final out of the 2023 NLDS), plus top pitching prospect AJ Smith-Shawver and Dylan Dodd, also currently in line for Atlanta's fifth starter spot. So that's ... a former top-tier prospect whose shine has dissolved and two live arms? The Dodgers can finagle that during Andrew Friedman's power nap.
Forget about the fact that Chicago and Atlanta already hooked up for an Aaron Bummer swap (featuring several depreciated Braves assets) this winter. The real Bummer swap would be the Dodgers failing to outbid the Braves' meager package for Cease, then ceasing to compete.
Dodgers' Dylan Cease Trade Package: What Would it Look Like?
Instead of Grissom, it has to be either Miguel Vargas or Michael Busch. Atlanta, take your pick! Busch, fresh off a powerhouse Triple-A season but without a clear path to playing time in LA, is probably the more appealing headliner.
What about, for top-tier arms, a Gavin Stone-led group of three? Stone, then two of the following: Kyle Hurt, Ronan Kopp and Maddux Bruns? Smith-Shawver is more of a mystery, at the moment, than Stone, but the Dodgers' option has more big-league bonafides, and the stuff is on par (and shined through his up-and-down 2023 debut campaign).
If Cease continues to be dangled between the two top teams in the National League, and the Dodgers -- easily able to outbid Atlanta -- don't win out? The optics will be horrific. Don't worry about the right-hander's free agency. Act now, and text Scott Boras later.