The Braves have scoured the free agent and trade markets for a starting pitcher. Alex Anthopoulos confirmed as much at the Winter Meetings, and the club isn’t done.
Aaron Nola was a target, who they reportedly made a significant offer to before he re-signed with the Phillies. Atlanta was also linked to Sonny Gray before he inked a deal with the Cardinals, and they’ve most recently been eyeing Seth Lugo.
Those all seemed like attainable targets at the time, but perhaps the most exciting pitcher the Braves have been linked to is White Sox ace Dylan Cease. The 27-year-old seems like a perfect candidate for an Alex Anthopoulos trade-and-extend special; however, it’s a bit more complicated than the Matt Olson or Sean Murphy deals.
First and foremost, a frontline starter with multiple years of control is more valuable than a world class catcher or first baseman. That’s just the state of the sport. Secondly, the Braves have exhausted their farm system in recent years with those trades and the graduations of others.
Other clubs can likely offer the White Sox better packages, but Atlanta should have enough to pique Chicago’s interest. It might cost some combination of Vaughn Grissom, A.J. Smith-Shawver, Hurston Waldrep, and Bryce Elder, which begs to question — is Dylan Cease worth that much?
Many in Braves Country would say no, at least not without a contract extension, which seems unlikely given he is a Scott Boras client. However, there is precedent.
Jered Weaver, Elvis Andrus, and Xander Bogaerts are three examples of Boras clients who signed extensions. Moreover, Boras works for Cease; not the other way around. In a perfect world, the Milton, Georgia native, who surely grew up a Braves fan, would force his agent’s hand at the negotiating table.
There’s a lot of hurdles to get over if you are Alex Anthopoulos, but eventually the Braves are going to have to go out of their comfort zone if they want to land a frontline starter in free agency or via a trade.
First, the Braves would have to be comfortable parting ways with the rest of their top prospects. Secondly, they’d have to be confident in their ability to get a deal done with Boras.
Lastly, the club would have to be comfortable committing to one of the biggest deal in franchise history because even if Cease forces Boras to the negotiating table, it would still cost a considerable amount of money to lock him up long-term.
However, Braves Country can hang its hat on Cease being from Milton and the precedent that Broas clients have agreed to extensions before.
Photographer: Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire