San Diego Padres swoop in and beat out legit contenders for Dylan Cease

Dylan Cease was going to be traded at some point, but the Padres getting him was a shock.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

In the early wake of Gerrit Cole's injury, the New York Yankees may have been more in the mix than ever. The Texas Rangers were rumored to be interested. The Chicago White Sox were going to trade 2022 AL Cy Young runner-up Dylan Cease at some point; it was just a matter of when. With Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery lingering available as free agents, the sooner the better perhaps.

On Wednesday night, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported the San Diego Padres were acquiring Cease. According to Mark Feinsand of, the White Sox are getting three prospects (pitcher Drew Thorpe, outfielder Samuel Zavala, pitcher Jairo Iriarte) and veteran reliever Steven Wilson.

Thorpe, Zavala and Iriarte were top-10 prospects in the Padres' system, according to MLB Pipeline, and Thorpe is No. 85 on MLB Pipeline's Top-100 prospects list entering this year. So it reeks of a move a contender, or a team that fancies itself to be a contender, would make.

Cease is coming off a down year in 2023 (4.58 ERA), but his peripherals weren't markedly worse (10.9 K/9, 4.0 BB/9), and a 3.73 FIP reflects some bad fortune. Either way, he has made at least 32 starts in three straight seasons, and at 28 years old, he's in his prime. He has one more year of team control left in 2025, so he is more than a rental.

Padres swoop in and take Dylan Cease out from under legit contenders

Thorpe was part of the Padres' return in the Juan Soto trade back in December, which seemed to be a concession made that they would not be going all-in this year. Thorpe was the one future-looking piece the Padres got in the deal.

Cease will alter that equation now, but the Padres have been projected to be around a .500 team this year (82-80 in 2023). They also share a division with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the defending NL champion Arizona Diamondbacks. The San Francisco Giants may be better, too, after finishing 79-83 last year.

Padres general manager A.J. Preller is never too afraid to make a deal. Cease is very cheap, especially relative to his talent, for the next two years ($8 million this year, with an arbitration-driven raise next year).

But trading for Cease, with the cost in mind, is something a team with realistic lofty aspirations would do. The Padres will most likely be fighting for a Wild Card spot this year, with winning the NL West not a realistic expectation. Maybe it works out famously, but giving up three prospects for Cease is at minimum a weird move three months after tapping out and trading Soto.