Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

tyson ross padresImmediately after Ken Rosenthal reported that Padres closer Craig Kimbrel was being traded to the Red Sox, I speculated that we might finally see the Padres sell-off we all expected at the 2015 Trade Deadline.

Specifically, I felt that the trade might presage the increased availability of starting pitcher Tyson Ross:

Ken Rosenthal has since reported that at least one executive agrees, believing that Padres GM A.J. Preller is likely to begin a full-out rebuild, and sources say players like Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner and/or Matt Kemp are being shopped. While there is some speculation that Preller might try to encourage teams take on Kemp (and his remaining $86M over the next four years) in addition to Ross, the (negative) impact on the return might be enough to dissuade him.

If Ross does come alone – without Kemp, that is – he would definitely be an interesting and relatively likely target for the Chicago Cubs, who figure to be adding more than one starting pitcher this offseason. Indeed, if you recall, Ross was reportedly a target of the Cubs at the 2015 Trade Deadline. Remember, though, that at the time, Ross was expected to help out in 2015 and potentially in the playoffs, in addition to his multiple remaining years of control. None of that is to say that the Cubs would suddenly be uninterested, it’s just a reminder that priorities can change from a deadline to the offseason. (Although, as we can see in retrospect, it doesn’t appear that the Cubs FO was interested in any deals that sacrificed the future at all. Maybe, then, Ross is still a primary target for the Cubs.)

In this trade deadline/rumor post from July, Brett elaborates on why Tyson Ross is a particularly attractive target:

Ross, on the other hand – what with his two more years of arbitration control after this year, his age (28), and his stuff – does seem like a perfect fit for the Cubs. Of course, that’s true of many teams, which means the price would be substantial. Ross makes just $5.25 million this year, and will probably be in the $8-9 million range next year, and $10-12 million the year after that. For a guy with ERA/FIP/xFIP figures in the 3.20 range each of the last three years, that presents a whole lot of surplus value.

Ross, 28, went on to complete his second excellent season in a row with the Padres in 2015 and has already come up in multiple mentions this offseason. Given that many expect the Cubs to target talented, cost-controlled pitchers in trade, Ross might make as much sense as any.

In 2015, Ross had an impressive 3.26/2.98/3.15 slash line, accumulating 4.4 WAR in the process. More importantly, after a light look through his peripherals, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of unusual or exceptional luck. He got his strong results despite a relatively large .320 BABIP and a very average 74.0% LOB% and 8.8% HR/FB rate. He made 33 healthy starts (196 innings), while inducing an exceedingly healthy number of ground balls (61.5%) and strikeouts (25.8%).

Ross, like any pitcher, doesn’t come without his issues, though. Most notably, many believe that his small pitch arsenal will be his downfall. According to FanGraphs, Ross mostly alternates between his fastballs (a two seamer and a four seamer) and his slider, though he does (very) occasionally throw a change-up, cutter and curveball. Ideally, a starting pitcher will regularly rotate between 3-4 pitches in a given start so that the opposing offense doesn’t get too many looks at any one pitch. It would appear, though, that Ross has been successful leaning heavily on a fastball/slider combo (just look at his results).

However, it is fair to wonder if he can continue to be as successful, with such a limited pitch mix, as batters continue to get more more looks at him (and whether his slider-heavy approach will tax his arm). Additionally, Ross’s walk rate in 2015 (10.2%) was a bit high, and he watched his velocity drop for the second straight season since 2013.

We’ll see if the Padres do wind up more aggressively selling off, and, if they do, whether the Cubs go after Ross.

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