Dylan Cease opens up on trade rumors, tanking in MLB: 'Would be nice if more teams tried'

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It’s a good thing Dylan Cease is a forgiving guy.

The Chicago White Sox ace returned to “Flippin’ Bats” this week for another conversation with me — despite what could have been some bad blood. Cease finished as the runner-up in the 2022 American League Cy Young race to none other than Justin Verlander.

“If you weren’t such a nice guy, I would boycott the show because of what your brother did to me in ’22,” Cease joked.

Cease joined me from Arizona, where he had just arrived to report to the White Sox’s spring training following an offseason full of intense trade rumors as Chicago seems destined for another rebuild.

But Cease said he had a “great” offseason, not only because he feels good physically but because of how he handled the speculation, which was impossible for him to tune out completely.

“It’s inevitable that friends or family or whoever is going to be saying stuff or sending you stuff,” Cease said. “Being involved in it, I did want to know, like, ‘Hey, what are the rumors?’ For me, I wouldn’t really say it was a negative in any way. It was more kind of just intriguing.”

Cease was connected to multiple contending teams in need of a frontline starter during the offseason, including the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers and — most heavily — the Baltimore Orioles.

Cease said both his agent and White Sox general manager Chris Getz kept him filled in on things throughout the winter, with Getz saying there was “less than 50% chance” of a trade coming together before spring training but vowing to let Cease know if a deal appeared imminent. That call never came, though Cease knows a swap could still materialize in an instant if a team decides to really pursue him.

“But at the end of the day, I really just want to perform,” Cease said. “I kept my focus on getting ready for the season, getting everything built up. And that was almost just a little bit of background noise. I definitely saw it and paid attention. But at the end of the day, I wasn’t losing sleep over it by any means.

“I kind of just kept an open mind to it and viewed it as more of a win-win because either way, I either get to come back here where I’ve got a lot of good relationships and I love the city of Chicago, so I was going to enjoy my time here, or I would go somewhere new and experience something new and start something fresh.”

White Sox’s Dylan Cease on being part of offseason trade rumors

Cease is also optimistic that the 2024 White Sox can turn the page on a rough 2023 for the team, saying he’s pleased with the amount of “high-energy, high-effort” guys that the White Sox have in addition to their talent, and that the team feels confident heading into the season. He’s less enthused about the pitch clock, saying while he appreciates its affect on shortening the pace and heightening the excitement and appeal of games, he still gets annoyed by it as a pitcher.

“If you’re not on the same page as your catcher, you really don’t have a lot of time to sit there and shake [off pitch calls],” Cease said. “It’s got some downsides in that regard, but I do think the pace of play is probably worth it. … I think that’s probably better for viewership. Last season, it felt like we had the most fan turnout that I’ve been a part of, just around the league. So, if it’s good, I’m good with it.”

But while the pitch clock can stay, I asked Cease if there was one major change he would implement in the game of baseball if he were in charge, and I found his answer enlightening.

“It would be nice if more teams tried,” Cease said. “I think that would be the biggest thing. Obviously, everyone’s trying, but there are the ones that go all in every year and they really do it, and there’s the ones that don’t. I think the product would be better if as a collective, everyone was putting in their [best effort], and I know that’s maybe unrealistic, but if there wasn’t such a thing as these multiyear rebuilds, it’d be nice.”

Cease discusses changes he wants to see in MLB

I completely agree. The Orioles have often come under criticism for their lack of spending under their previous ownership group, the Angelos family, which just sold the team to a group of investors led by David Rubenstein. The Angelos’ approach to the team stood in stark contrast at times to that of a guy like Steve Cohen who, while he is the wealthiest owner in the league, has a professed love for baseball and his New York Mets, and has sunk hundreds of millions of dollars into trying to turn the Mets back into a winner. 

I think Major League Baseball needs more people running teams that truly love the sport of baseball. As Cease pointed out, that investment can pay huge financial dividends with fan excitement and playoff ticket sales — which can then be reinvested back into improving the team, like what the Arizona Diamondbacks did this past winter. Competitiveness is a good thing for everyone — the teams and the fans. Like Cease, I hope we see more of it in 2024.

Ben Verlander is an MLB Analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the “Flippin’ Bats” podcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before he joined his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2013. He spent five years in the Tigers organization. Follow him on Twitter @BenVerlander.

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