Dylan Cease traded from White Sox to Padres

The Chicago White Sox are moving on from Dylan Cease. The team traded Cease to the San Diego Padres on Wednesday, Yahoo Sports' Russell Dorsey confirmed.

Going back to the White Sox will be pitching prospects Drew Thorpe and Jairo Iriarte, outfield prospect Samuel Zavala and reliever Steven Wilson, the team later announced. MLB Pipeline ranks Thorpe as the No. 5 prospect in San Diego's system, Zavala at No. 7 and Iriarte at No. 8. Thorpe is also ranked as the No. 85 prospect in baseball. Wilson holds a 3.48 ERA in 106 career innings across two seasons for the Padres.

Becoming a Padre has at least one very immediate impact for Cease: The team was scheduled to fly to South Korea on Wednesday for its two season-opening games against the Los Angeles Dodgers next week. Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove were already named the probable starters for those games.

The move signals more change for the White Sox, who fired former general manager Rick Hahn and vice president Kenny Williams in August. Chris Getz, who played for the White Sox for two years before joining the team’s front office after he retired, was promoted to replace Hahn in late August.

The move marks the biggest trade — and arguably the biggest decision — Getz has made since taking over the reins. He also declined an option on shortstop Tim Anderson in November and acquired five players from the Atlanta Braves for reliever Aaron Bummer later that month. But dealing Cease is a whole other level of transaction.

Dylan Cease found stardom with White Sox

Cease emerged as one of the biggest success stories in the White Sox organization during its most recent rebuild. After posting a 5.79 ERA as a rookie, Cease steadily improved before breaking out in a major way in 2022. That season, he posted a 2.20 ERA over 32 starts, struck out 227 batters over 184 innings and finished second in AL Cy Young voting to Justin Verlander.

Cease experienced regression in 2023, posting a 4.58 ERA over 177 innings, and he failed to garner a single Cy Young vote as the White Sox collapsed yet again in the regular season.

Throughout his career, Cease has flashed dynamite stuff but has struggled to put his arsenal together. Even in 2022, when he nearly won the Cy Young award, he led the league in walks. His potential remains high, however, which is why he drew interest this offseason. With the right tweaks, Cease can likely return to a Cy Young level. And if he can make strides with his control, he could even exceed his 2022 levels.

Given his ability and contract situation (Cease is under team control through 2025), the White Sox apparently thought now was the best time to make a deal. The Padres have Cease under contract for two seasons and, if things work out, can use that time to work out an extension.

Padres try to stay aggressive in NL West

A trade for Cease feels like a classic Padres move, at least of the team's recent vintage. However, times have changed somewhat.

San Diego has more than its fair share of stars but is facing an uphill climb in an NL West that is as competitive as ever. The Dodgers flexed their muscles this offseason with the acquisitions of Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Tyler Glasnow and more. The Arizona Diamondbacks are a young team that just reached the World Series, with more young talent on the way. The San Francisco Giants even made a splash with the signings of Jung Hoo Lee, Matt Chapman and Jorge Soler.

Meanwhile, the Padres traded away Juan Soto, watched closer Josh Hader sign with the Houston Astros and will likely lose reigning NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell. Considering that the team finished 18 games back of the Dodgers last season, it was very hard to believe they could be serious contenders this season.

The Padres entered Wednesday projected by Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA as the fourth-best team in the division, with their win total pegged at 79.9. That's more than 20 games back of the Dodgers (100.6) and a few games behind the D-backs (85.4) and Giants (83.3).

Cease is a good pitcher, 2023 surface-level results aside. But he has been worth an average of only 3.9 bWAR over the past three seasons. Maybe the Padres still have a few surprises in them, but it's hard to see Cease coming even close to putting them over the top in the division. That said, they should be competitive in the wild-card race, and you never know what will happen after Opening Day.