Tyson Ross has long been a target of the Chicago Cubs.
Or at least, that’s what the trade rumors used to say, before he missed (essentially) the entire 2016 season with shoulder trouble (thoracic outlet syndrome), a condition which eventually required surgery this past October.
Fortunately, the timeline for recovery could have Ross throwing as soon as Spring Training begins, and it won’t likely be with the Padres.
In case you missed the big news, the Padres non-tendered Ross a few days ago, making him a surprise entry into the current free agent class (one that I will remind you is bereft of many suitable starting pitchers). Immediately upon hearing of his non-tender, we speculated that the Cubs (and probably 29 other teams, including the Padres) might jump quickly at the opportunity to get Ross aboard for the 2017 season and beyond.
And, as it turns out, that is looking like the case.
With Jason Hammel exiting the starting rotation (and likely Chicago as a whole), Bruce Levine suggests that Tyson Ross might be a fit with the Cubs. In fact, he says you can “bet on it.”
Why? Well, the Cubs 1) heavily pursued Ross during the 2015 season (a proposed Starlin Castro or Javy Baez for Ross trade apparently went down to the trade deadline wire), 2) have the obvious need in the rotation, and 3) implied that injured or rehabbing pitchers will not be off the table this offseason. On the surface, that all makes plenty of sense.
Levine takes it a few steps further however, getting into the particulars of a potential deal: “The Cubs will likely be creative with their offer if they decide to gamble on Ross. A two-year deal with plenty of incentives and option years for both sides could make sense.”
Indeed, that is likely the type of deal all teams will want to sign Ross to, but it’s fair to wonder if he’ll be able to avoid the second year team option and just get one season to reestablish himself. The benefit of hitting free agency as a 30-year old pitcher in the 2017-2018 offseason – as opposed to a 31-year-old pitcher in the loaded 2018-2019 offseason – is potentially significant.
Jesse Rogers adds to the discussion on Ross: “A potential multi-year contract with incentives makes more sense than the Cubs rehabbing him and letting him back on the market next winter.” That makes more sense for the Cubs. The issue will be whether a team is willing to offer Ross the alternative (a one-year deal), and, if so, he’s almost certainly going to prefer that for the reasons I stated above.
Unless, of course, the Cubs believe so much in an injured player (who was just non-tendered) that they’re willing to roll the dice on something like a 3-4 year deal with a bit more money guaranteed. That’s a heck of a gamble, but if Ross returned to form, it could pay off immensely. It seems unlikely, though. Just to be clear.
I’ll reserve a deeper statistical/performance dive for another day (it’s tough to do for a guy with a lost season coming off of surgery, in any case), but, in short, Ross is a rare two-pitch starting pitcher (fastball/slider), who found a great deal of success in 2013 (3.20 FIP), 2014 (3.24 FIP), and 2015 (2.98 FIP).
His injury in 2016 limited him to just his opening day start, but Ross was just a few innings shy of 200 IP in both 2014 and 2015. Typically, he sports a mid-twenty percent strikeout rate, a sub-ten percent walk rate, an excellent ground ball rate, and many other very solid peripherals. The main questions surrounding Ross are 1) will he be able to successfully return from this injury and 2) can he continue to find success with just two pitches.
The degree to which any team answers “yes” to either question is directly related to the contract Ross will ultimately receive.
And to that end, the Cubs continue to look like a fairly plausible destination.
It could be a while before we hear too much more, though, as Ross will be rehabbing from his surgery. Peter Gammons says that Ross will be “patient” in making a decision on his next team.
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