Free agency isn’t the only avenue for the Boston Red Sox to bolster their starting rotation this Major League Baseball offseason.

The trade market is an option, as well, and several notable names are rumored to be available.

One such name: Dylan Cease of the Chicago White Sox.

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Cease is coming off a so-so 2023, by his standards, but finished second in American League Cy Young voting in 2022. The right-hander posted a 3.54 ERA, a 3.40 FIP and a 1.257 WHIP while averaging 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings in 97 starts over the last three seasons.

Throw in Cease’s age (28) and contract situation (under club control for two more years), and it’s easy to see why teams covet the White Sox ace. He’d immediately become Boston’s best starter for 2024.

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As such, Chicago reportedly set a high asking price in trade talks. Should the Red Sox consider meeting the White Sox’s demands?

NBC Sports Chicago’s Chuck Garfien recently shed light on what it would take to pry Cease away from the Windy City.

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“Someone is going to acquire him, I think, and if Dylan Cease gets traded, they’re going to have to pony up a lot,” Garfien said in an NBC Sports Boston video. “The reason why Dylan Cease is not on (another) team right now is because no one has met the White Sox’s asking price. Chris Getz, the GM of the White Sox, is asking a lot, and rightfully so.

” … If the White Sox are going to trade Dylan Cease, they’re going to get, hopefully, what they feel is his value. And that is, yes, the best prospects in the Red Sox organization. … They are asking for — I mean, every farm system is different, but choose two of your top prospects. Maybe three. That’s who they’re asking for.”

Garfien pointed to the 2016 Chris Sale trade as a cautionary tale for Chicago. The Red Sox traded Yoán Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz to the White Sox in exchange for Sale — a perennial Cy Young candidate entering his age-28 season at the time — and none of those players have made a meaningful impact for Chicago.

Cease isn’t necessarily on Sale’s level, as the latter was widely considered one of the top pitchers in MLB. But we’re still talking about a very good hurler who teams might find more attractive than Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery — the top two starters available in free agency — given that he’s younger and cheaper from a financial standpoint.

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For the Red Sox, it’s simply a matter of whether they have the stomach for parting with multiple top prospects. Acquiring Cease would go a long way toward stabilizing the rotation and boosting Boston’s overall outlook for 2024, but the AL East remains arguably the toughest division in baseball and the Red Sox might not want to pluck key assets from their farm system.

Featured image via Matt Marton/USA TODAY Sports Images