Did you wonder whether the Cubs’ addition of three new bullpen options – Wade Davis, Koji Uehara (expected), and Caleb Smith – would impact their desire to add another starting pitcher? With a crowded bullpen, perhaps keeping Mike Montgomery in the rotation is the best thing in the short and long-term?
That would be the argument, anyway, but for me, I’d definitely still like to see the Cubs trolling for starting pitchers – both of the depth kind that can be shuttled up and down from AAA as necessary, and the kind that will make an immediate impact in 2017.
To that end, the Cubs are still involved on free agent righty Tyson Ross, who was non-tendered by the Padres earlier this month following a lost 2016 season. Patrick Mooney reports that the Cubs “left this week’s winter meetings in Maryland still involved in the Ross talks.”
Ross, 29, was worth 7.6 WAR over his two full-time starting seasons in San Diego before shoulder problems wiped out his 2016 campaign. He was long a rumored trade target of the Cubs, too, and they’ve been connected to him since the moment he was non-tendered this offseason. After surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome (really short, #NotADoctor version: removes an upper rib that can cause problems in the shoulder), Ross is slated to be pitching again by Spring Training, and possibly ready for big league action in April.
I’d imagine the preference for the Cubs would still be to find that perfect younger cost-controlled, long-term starting pitcher, but the Cubs can’t afford to plan on it happening this offseason (as we’ve seen in the preceding several offseasons). Further, getting Ross in the door – if he proves to be healthy and effective by the second half, at least – to evaluate and for each side to develop comfort, could go a long way toward signing him to a longer deal to help with the glaring pitching need in 2018 and beyond. Heck, Ross is only two years older than Kyle Hendricks and Mike Montgomery, after all.
Ross is, in many ways, a perfect fit for the Cubs in 2017, who could definitely use another starting pitcher, but also do have some coverage in case he isn’t able to come back effectively from his surgery right away (or at all). There aren’t many playoff-caliber teams out there that are going to be able to offer Ross a just-about-guaranteed starting spot so long as he’s healthy, and not risk blowing themselves up in 2017 in the process.
In that way, the Cubs seem a very good fit for Ross, too. If he’s looking for a one-year deal to set himself up for free agency in 2018, you could do a lot worse than an extremely high-profile team that would be very happy to use you in the starting rotation all year.
Furthermore, as Mooney notes in his piece, the Cubs will also have a nice selling point for a rehabbing pitcher like Ross: a recent track record of success in getting the most out of starting pitchers with their current infrastructure. I’d add that any pitcher would be happy to pitch in front of the Cubs’ defense, too.
I suspect we are far from a decision on this front, as Ross may want to wait (and/or it takes only one involved team wanting to wait) until a little closer to Spring Training to show where he is in his rehab before signing. Or, it’s also possible he may want to carry this into Spring Training, when there are always teams that find out a pitcher or two has showed up to camp injured or ineffective.
We will definitely be keeping a very close eye on Ross’s free agency.