Cleveland Guardians have enough to swing trade for Dylan Cease

Chicago White Sox Workout
Chicago White Sox Workout / Michael Reaves/GettyImages
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I think, at this point, everyone who’s a Cleveland Guardians fan is tired of talking about how many darn middle infielders the team has in the top levels of the organization. We get it. They’ve stockpiled these guys for the past 150,000 years to seemingly create the best lineup a Triple-A team has ever put out. The only guy still happy about all this is Columbus manager Andy Tracy and maybe Junior Caminero because he was able to get out of the organization in what’s looking like one of the worst trades in baseball history. At least Tyler Freeman is playing in center field to throw some new red meat into the debate. But I digress.

The logical conclusion that every fan and media personality has come to is that the club is going to break up this slog via a blockbuster trade that’s will bring in a power-hitting corner outfielder or starting pitcher. But the game of chicken with Cleveland’s front office has reached a critical phase, and with so much budding talent and (I think) a good chance to make the playoffs this year, I think it’s time to seriously, seriously consider one trade candidate to help this team get to the next level this year.

A big-time trade with a division rival

Dylan Cease has been floated by almost every reigning playoff team as a trade commodity to help bolster their rotation. Starting pitching, especially for someone with top of the rotation stuff, is always at a premium. Coming off a season where he started in 33 games, Cease is almost certain to be on the move at some point this season. So, for Cleveland, why not pull the trigger on a trade that’s going to help your starting rotation for this season and clear up some space for the prospects they believe are truly ready to contribute at the Major League level? This potential trade kills two birds with one stone.

Now, the obvious obstacle to this trade actually coming to fruition is the fact that Cease is getting paid $8 million this year and is arbitration-eligible next season before hitting the open market in 2026. Cleveland likes team control and is allergic to paying anyone a substantial salary. MLB Trade Rumors compared Cease to fellow starters Sandy Alcantara and Aaron Nola when projecting a possible second contract. Alcantara signed for five years and $56 million, while Nola inked a four-year $45 million extension with a club option. Cease would hit the open market shortly before his 30th birthday, and Cleveland also likes to part ways with starters before they reach that post-30 cliff (see Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger).

I could see the club trying to swing a four-year contract that would up his average annual salary for this year and next year while only keeping him through his age-32 season. And for a guy that has 658.0 Major League innings under his belt and no significant time on the Injured List since he made his minor league debut in 2014, an extension of that kind wouldn’t be the most outlandish bet. A contract in the range of $11-12 million a year also doesn’t constitute breaking the bank. Though it would for Cleveland, that price range shouldn’t be too much to ask the club to go after for a Bonafide top-end starter.

Who could be the move for this deal to happen?

For this exercise, let’s say the most prioritized middle infielders are Angel Martinez, Brayan Rocchio, Juan Brito, and Welbyn Francisca. Those are the top guys drawing the most buzz. Everyone else, in my opinion, can and should be open for a trade discussion. You could even argue that the Guardians should be willing to move any of the middle infielders outside of Andres Gimenez. So, for this trade, let’s offer up Gabriel Arias, Jose Tena, and a top pitching prospect like Alex Clemmey, Joey Cantillo, or Jackson Humphreys. It’ll probably take a little more because the White Sox are looking for a big haul that’s going to strengthen one of the worst farm systems in baseball.

It’s not like Cleveland has one of the best farms in the league either, but there are plenty of guys with high ceilings that can turn into really solid Major League players. Arias feels like he needs so much more time to adjust and figure out his swing. Tena’s going to quickly get lost in the shuffle because he’s not a top prospect, nor is he coming off a good season. Cleveland’s pitching factory is still strong, with a good crop of guys coming down the pike as well. Adding in one of the top guys who isn’t close to being MLB-ready might tip the White Sox scales, and they may even ask for another top 30 guy because in-division trades seem to eek more out of one team.

I’m fine reshuffling the middle infield deck in favor of a starting pitcher who’s going to solidify a rotation that’s likely to lose Shane Bieber after this season and could struggle through the growing pains of Gavin Williams, Logan Allen, and Tanner Bibee. Cleveland needs a rotation that’s strong if it wants to contend over the next few years before some of the young bats grow into reliable hitters. Cease being available now is huge, and the Guardians have real estate to burn in order to pull off this sort of deal.