The Atlanta Braves have been linked to Dylan Cease trade talks over the past few days. Cease only has two years left on his contract and with the bidding war reportedly involving teams like the Dodgers and Yankees, the asking price could be climbing. The asking price could get even higher if the rumor is true that the White Sox will wait until the free-agent pitching market thins out and teams become desperate.
Thinking about the Braves long-term future
There are some questions to consider when discussing a trade for Cease. One question is: "Where does this leave the Braves after two years?"
Max Fried is set to hit free agency and earn a massive contract after the 2024 season. We watched the open market outbid the Braves on Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson, it's likely the same will happen with Fried.
There was speculation that Charlie Morton would retire after last season. Morton turned 40 on November 12th, and there is a good chance he could be done after next season. That would leave the Braves with Spencer Strider as the only quality starter locked down for the foreseeable future. We hope prospects like AJ Smith-Shawver or Hurston Waldrep will claim a spot but that is never a guarantee.
Bryce Elder was one of the best pitchers in baseball in the first half of last season. He was one of the worst pitchers in baseball in the second half of the 2023 season. Michael Soroka and Kyle Wright have been traded away as they continue to deal with serious injury issues.
Trading for Dylan Cease will further deplete an already thin farm system. Cease will be under team control for two years and then he's off to the market. Alex Anthopoulos likes to make deals where he can get a long-term extension done, like he did with Matt Olson and Sean Murphy. Dylan Cease is not going to take an extension right now.
Why Dylan Cease Won't Sign an Extension
Cease's value is suppressed due to his performance
Coming off a down season compared to where he was two years ago. In 2022, he finished second in Cy Young voting. That season, he finished with a 2.20 ERA in 32 starts. Outside of that, he's been pretty average. Outside of his outstanding 2022, Cease has a 4.46 ERA over 474 career innings. On top of that, he's coming off of a letdown of a follow-up to his Cy Young runner-up, posting a 4.58 ERA. Furthermore, in each of the past four seasons, he has either led the league in walks (2022 and 2020) or wild pitches (2021, 2023).
There are plenty of reasons for a team to lowball Cease on a long-term deal, despite an elite 2022 (still led the league in walks with 78).
Cease is represented by Scott Boras
Dylan Cease is represented by Scott Boras. He doesn't like extensions. He likes full market value. Cease has two years to increase his value. If he can recapture his 2022 form over the next couple of seasons, he's going to drive his value through the roof. There is a good argument to bring down his value right now.
Dylan Cease's fastball velocity dropped 1.2 mph from 2022
Dylan Cease's down season in 2023 was accompanied by a drop in fastball velocity from 96.8 mph to 95.6 in 2023. The fastball was still in the 77th percentile but a significant drop accompanied by an increase in ERA.
There's a chance he can recapture his 2022 season and the Braves strike gold for the next two seasons. Then, right when Atlanta needs him the most, he leaves via free agency. There's also a chance the Braves give up a haul of players to bring over a guy with a 4.46 ERA who leads the league in walks... and that's disappointing.