Following offseason of rumors, Cease enters spring with Sox

February 15th, 2024

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- remains a member in good standing of the Chicago White Sox.

That piece of information doesn’t exactly rate as breaking news; on Monday, general manager Chris Getz said he expects Cease to be the White Sox Opening Day starter for a second straight year. But with the plethora of trade rumors swirling around the right-hander this past offseason, it’s probably worth checking in weekly to make sure nothing has changed.

Cease, 28, should get the highest trade return of any player on the rebuilding club if Chicago elects to trade him, assuming All-Star center fielder Luis Robert Jr. stays put. He finished second in the 2022 American League Cy Young Award voting and has averaged 222 strikeouts over the last three seasons.

In this day and age where leadership is about availability almost as much as anything else, Cease has made 97 starts since 2021, the most in all of baseball. Cease also has two years of contractual control remaining before becoming a free agent after the 2025 season, an important factor to any contender pursuing pitching upgrades.

Teams such as the Yankees, Orioles, Braves and Dodgers were attached to Cease as potential trade partners, leaving Cease to assume a deal was inevitable at some point over the past three months. But there he was Wednesday afternoon at Camelback Ranch, flashing an all-too-familiar smile, answering questions about a trade that never happened.

“Part of it’s exciting,” Cease said. “I guess anything that’s new and novel like that can be exciting. But I have a lot of good relationships with coaches and teammates and all that here. I pretty much was just trying to prepare like it was a normal offseason, and wherever I went, I was going to be ready.

“I just pretty much tried to follow it and see what was happening. For the most part, I just focused on getting ready. At the end of the day, I just want to perform.”

Normal offseason talks took place between Cease, White Sox pitching coach Ethan Katz and senior advisor of pitching Brian Bannister regarding 2024 preparation. The trade rumors produced a couple calls from Getz to Cease, with Getz promising to provide a heads up if anything was imminent.

Manager Pedro Grifol reached out as well, although there wasn’t much he could add in regard to Cease’s situation.

“What am I going to tell him? 'Hey, sit back and see what happens?' He already knows that,” Grifol said. “The reason he’s in that position is because he’s really good, and teams want him. And, that doesn’t faze him. He’s here with us. He’s our Opening Day starter.

“If something comes up that benefits both sides, and our front office is excited about it, we’ll do it. If not, he’s our Opening Day starter. Right now, he’s here. He’s a White Sox. And he puts a smile on my face every time I see him out there.”

Lost in these trade machinations was an offseason of work leaving Cease feeling great. He had no triceps soreness or little aches, did a full ramp up and hit all the numbers he wanted to hit.

“I’m in a really good spot,” Cease said. “The biggest thing for me is getting my body and arm ready. Your preparation in the offseason is obviously very important, but now is when you start dialing in the pitching side. Not that you’re not in the offseason, but it’s a little bit more of getting in shape and putting the body through a little higher intensity throwing.

“When you take some time off, that can take a minute to get used to again. It’s making sure my body’s physically ready, making sure my body’s in a good mindset and getting here and focus.”

Cease, who is represented by Scott Boras, said on Wednesday that no extension talks have taken place between him and the club. He would like to stay in Chicago with the relationships and friendships built, not to mention his rousing support and praise for the city.

But he just wants to perform and control what he can control currently at the top of the White Sox rotation.

“You can only focus on so much I guess,” Cease said. “And the more you can focus on what really matters, that’s what’s important.

“Either way, I’m grateful to be a Major League baseball player. So whether I’m here or somewhere else, I’m going to try to make the most of the opportunity and that’s all that really matters.”