With what seemed to be an aggressive push last week to get a deal done with Tyson Ross, the Texas Rangers emerged as among the favorites to sign the free agent righty, who is recovering from surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. Like the Chicago Cubs, the Rangers could offer Ross a competitive team in 2017 as well as a likely available rotation spot, but without the immediate need to insert him into the rotation, in case he’s not quite ready yet in April.
No quick deal happened, however.
For their part, the Cubs were also reportedly still in the mix for Ross, whom they’d like to add to a mix of starters that right now includes Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, John Lackey, and Mike Montgomery. If that means the Cubs have six “starting” pitchers, then so be it – they’ve shown in the past an interest in distributing starts across six starters when possible in order to keep arms fresh down the stretch, and that’s likely something they’ll try again this year.
To that end, Ken Rosenthal reports that Ross is taking a “methodical” approach to his free agency, and is still considering possible contract structures and rehab opportunities*. The Cubs and Rangers, per Rosenthal, are the front-runners to sign Ross.
As we’ve discussed before, the process of coming to an agreement on the right contract for both parties in this deal is a necessarily complicated one:
It’s not hard to surmise what is probably going on with respect to the offers behind the scenes: the involved teams will want to secure multiple years of control (preferably via team options), and Ross is probably looking for the best one-year deal he can get, assuming there is no significant multiple year deal on the table. Within those confines, all sides will twist and contort and try to make a fit that’s both palatable to the team and attractive to Ross. It’s probably a really fascinating fly-on-the-wall situation. Maybe the compromise is a lower salary for 2017, and then a team option for 2018 that comes at a very high rate.
I shouldn’t even spitball in this situation, because the surgery recovery and the possible upside here make the range of possible offers so wide and diverse that you’re likely to look like a fool if you try to peg the final contract in advance. Suffice it to say, I’d be surprised if Ross landed more than a one-year deal, I’d be surprised if there weren’t incentives built in, and I’d be surprised if the teams weren’t pushing like heck to get a team option for 2018.
Like Joel Sherman reported last week, if the Cubs aren’t able to sign Ross, Rosenthal says they may look to re-sign Travis Wood. Although Wood does not offer the same middle-to-top-of-the-rotation upside that a healthy Ross does, Wood has shown an ability to swing in and out of the rotation and the bullpen, which has proved very valuable to the Cubs. The hitch with Wood, however, is that he may want to sign somewhere that he’s more likely to see regular starts. And, from the Cubs’ perspective, there’s the issue of Wood’s significant struggles against righties in 2016 (.263/.344/.521 line, 5.15 FIP). His splits were much less pronounced in 2015, for what it’s worth.
*(A less-discussed part of the free agent pursuit here is that Ross is going to want not only the most optimal (to him) contract for 2017, but he’ll also want to make sure he’s going somewhere that is going to treat his arm well, helping to put him in the best possible position to succeed in 2018 and beyond. Heck, finding the right fit in that regard might be even more important to him than the contract he signs.)