Pittsburgh Pirates: Two Pitchers to Pursue, Two to Avoid in Second Half of the Off-Season

The Pirates should consider pursing these two players, but avoid these other two.

Aug 21, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Sean Manaea (52)
Aug 21, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Sean Manaea (52) / Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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Player To Avoid In Trade - Dylan Cease

I was totally on the Dylan Cease bandwagon earlier this off-season. But after hearing what the Chicago White Sox rumored to have asked from the Cincinnati Reds, I have since retracted my opinion. According to Jason Williams of the Cincinnati Enquirer and Bruce Levine of 670 The Score, the White Sox wanted some mix of Rhett Loweder, Chase Petty, Edwin Arroyo, and potentially a fifth prospect.

The equivalent of that to the Pirates would have been some mix of Jared Jones, Anthony Solometo, Yordany De Los Santos, Quinn Priester, and a fifth prospect from the Bucs' system. I like Cease and think he will rebound, but there are multiple reasons why I would avoid Cease altogether, aside from this being an utterly insane asking price.

The first reason is that he's coming off a mediocre season. In 177 innings, Cease had a 4.58 ERA, 3.72 FIP, and 1.42 WHIP. Cease did have a strong 27.3% strikeout rate, but he had a strikeout rate over 30% in each of 2021 and 2022. His 10.1% walk rate is a tad high but right around his career average. He also had an 0.97 HR/9, which was also better than the league average. The underlying numbers point to better performance, but nothing ace-like. Cease had a 4.07 xFIP and 4.10 SIERA, which is a second reason I'm not 100% sold on giving up that much for Cease.

Even in 2022, his estimators were good but not as good as his 2.20 ERA would suggest. He had a 3.50 xFIP, 3.48 SIERA, and 3.48 DRA. Again, these are good numbers, but suggest that there was definitely some luck playing a hand here.

Another reason is that Cease only has two years of control remaining. It might be frustrating when the Pirates don't trade for a player because of how long/short their contract is, but the amount of control the White Sox are asking for two years of Cease is something I can't overlook.

Dylan Cease is not a bad pitcher, but the White Sox's current asking price would make you think he's a bonafide ace, a consensus top-five pitcher in baseball who is still at least a whole year from arbitration. Now, the White Sox's asking price could go down as the off-season goes on. However, with his recent performance, control, and current price tag, I would not pursue Cease right now.