White Sox starting pitcher Dylan Cease is expected to take the ball on Opening Day. He's already been announced as the starter, but there's still a chance he'll be with another team. The trade rumors have swirled around Cease's name through a decent portion of the offseason and have recently resurfaced. 

Just look at this quote from White Sox manager Pedro Grifol Tuesday when asked if Cease would still be the Opening Day starter, via MLB.com: "I don't know. I mean, how am I supposed to know that? I don't know what's going to happen out there. I don't know where other teams are, what their urgency is.

"I have no idea. I leave that to our major league scouts, our general manager, the front office."  

He sure doesn't seem close to 100% sure he'll have Cease in a few weeks, does he? 

By way of reminder, Cease finished second in AL Cy Young voting to Justin Verlander in 2022 when he was 14-8 with a 2.20 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 227 strikeouts in 184 innings. Last season, he backslid to 7-9 with a 4.58 ERA, 1.42 WHIP and 214 strikeouts in 177 innings. Walks have been a major issue, but he's as good as anyone at stacking up strikeouts. He's under team control through the 2025 season before hitting free agency. 

The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported that the White Sox are still engaged in trade negotiations around Cease, with teams like the Rangers, Yankees and Padres connected.

Speaking of potential Cease suitors, let's run down the best realistic fits for him, should he be traded here in the coming days.

5. Orioles  

The Orioles already made a splash in the trade market with starting pitching when they acquired 2021 NL Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes. Still, they have such a stacked farm system that despite graduations to players like Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson and Grayson Rodríguez in the past two years in addition to trading for Burnes that they still were ranked as baseball's top farm system by MLB.com this March. 

There's also the argument that the Orioles' window of contention with this core of position players is only open for so long and they should be trying to win the World Series right now, coming off a 101-win season that ended with a playoff sweep. In light of that and spring injuries to starting pitchers Kyle Bradish (he's trying to work back from a partially torn UCL) and John Means (setback following Tommy John surgery), there's room to grab Cease. 

4. Mariners

After snapping the longest MLB playoff drought in 2022, the Mariners missed the playoffs by one game in 2023 and are expected to contend again this year. The rotation appears set with Luis Castillo, George Kirby, Logan Gilbert, Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo. Both Miller and Woo were rookies last season, however, and come with plenty of question marks in addition to their upside. With the Mariners in win-now mode and the White Sox building for the future, including either Woo or Miller in a package for Cease makes great sense for both sides. 

There are still no sure things here, but dreaming on a playoff rotation of Castillo, Kirby, Cease and Gilbert has to be tantalizing for one of the few franchises that has never won the World Series. The Mariners have never even won a pennant. 

3. Padres

As disappointing as last season was, the Padres still only missed the playoffs by two games. That was with incredible misfortunate with stuff like record in one-run games, run differential and situational hitting. Of course, in the offseason they let their best pitcher (Blake Snell) and stud closer (Josh Hader) walk in free agency and traded away one of the best position players in baseball (Juan Soto). The pitching behind Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove has been pieced together in part from the Soto trade, but there are still a lot of questions.

Pulling off a deal for Cease, if they can make it happen with the right trade package in addition to financially, would give them a Darvish-Musgrove-Cease top three before the likes of Michael King, Jhony Brito, Randy Vásquez and Matt Waldron. That's a lot more palatable. 

2. Yankees

They traded all their starting pitching depth for Soto. That's totally understandable, given that it's Juan Freaking Soto, but there was always some risk there and the Gerrit Cole injury concerns bring this to light. Without the rock that is Cole atop the rotation -- for at least 1-2 months -- the Yankees are looking at Carlos Rodón, Marcus Stroman, Nestor Cortes and Clarke Schmidt as their top four starters. There's good potential in there, of course, but there's also an awful lot of risk

Even before the Cole concerns, there was plenty of room here to add, given the injury history to Rodón, for example, not to mention the shaky backside of the rotation. That's why the Yankees have already been connected in rumors to free-agent lefty Blake Snell through the last several weeks. 

Cease is a good fit here. 

1. Rangers

There's a reason the Cease-to-Rangers rumors have picked up steam in recent days. It makes a ton of sense. 

The defending World Series champs head into the season with a rotation full of question marks in Nathan Eovaldi, Jon Gray, Andrew Heaney, Dane Dunning and Cody Bradford. Aces Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom are expected to be ready for the second half, as should Tyler Mahle should. Still, this isn't some upstart, would-be hopeful slow-playing a move toward contention. These are the champs. They have a strong enough farm system to shed a little of it in order to grab Cease. 

Then there's the possibility of getting to October with something like deGrom, Eovaldi, Cease, Scherzer in the rotation, which would be a nice recipe for a repeat.