The Chicago Cubs stood pat at last year’s trade deadline, resisting the urge to cash in young assets for pricey rental pitchers.
Despite finishing the season with the third best record in baseball, the Cubs (54-47) were just seven games above .500 on the day of the deadline, behind both the Pirates (59-42) and the Cardinals (65-37), in their own division.
One such pitcher was Tyson Ross, and Patrick Mooney is wondering whether Ross might once again be a trade target for the Cubs in 2016.
Up to and through the 2015 trade deadline, we discussed Ross, 28, a lot. He was a good, young pitcher with multiple years of control, on a team that was barreling towards an 88 loss season. The Padres were reportedly looking for a shortstop in return, and the Cubs certainly had a few they could have traded, but ultimately, no deal was struck and Ross stayed in San Diego.
But, as you may well know, the Cubs are projected to be among the best teams in baseball next season, while the Padres are projected to be the among the worst. It’s not hard to imagine, then, Ross being made available and the Cubs being interested and for good reason.
In 2015, Tyson Ross threw 196.0 innings with a 3.26 ERA (2.98 FIP) and 4.4 WAR. He had an absolutely fantastic 61.5% ground ball rate, a solid 25.8% strike out rate and the third lowest hard hit rate in baseball (behind only Jake Arrieta and Clayton Kershaw). And, by most reports, he is an extraordinarily hard worker and a great teammate, as well. Mark Simon (ESPN) actually believes that Ross will take an enormous leap forward in 2016, becoming a true ace in the process.
But Ross does come with his flaws.
While his strikeout rate has been excellent, he did lead the NL in walk rate (10.2%) and wild pitches (14), last season. He also drew criticism for being a two-pitch pitcher, throwing his fastball (58.2%) and slider (36.0%) almost exclusively. Moreover, his 196 innings in 2015 were a career high, over 2014 (195.2 IP) and 2013 (125 IP).
Even still, Ross feels like a good bet for success in 2016, and most of the projection systems seem to agree. ZiPS (3.24 ERA), Steamer (3.50 ERA) Depth Charts (3.36) and PECOTA (3.55 ERA) all expect Ross to repeat the success he’s experienced over the past few years, while the Fangraphs Fan projection system is even more optimistic (3.20 ERA) on the tall right hander.
But don’t be surprised to learn that the price tag is once again very high.
The price of pitching is largely inflated around baseball right now, and there’s no reason it wouldn’t be for Ross, as well. If the Padres are going to give up 1.5 years of their Opening Day starter, it’s going to take some young players you may not be too anxious to give up, but we’ll cross that road if and when we need to. For now, let’s just hope the Cubs get off to a great start to the season, and that they perform well enough to start having these types of conversations for real.