By Todd Johnson
According to Bruce Levine, the Cubs showcased Wrigley Field to free-agent starting pitcher Tyson Ross, formerly of the San Diego Padres. If you remember correctly, the Cubs and the Padres were in discussions for a deal in 2015 with Ross as the centerpiece of the trade. The problem was the Padres wanted Javier Baez. So, the Cubs naturally backed off of the deal.
Ross was released this winter after undergoing thoracic outlet surgery to improve the blood flow to his pitching arm. It is said that he should be able to pitch sometime in April. Here are a few things I think about the Cubs signing Ross in the next couple of weeks.
1. I think he would be a significant upgrade over Jason Hamel as a fourth or fifth starter.
2. I also think the Cubs assume a lot of risk in hopes of a giant reward as it relates to his injury. If he’s able to come back, the Cubs would have another starter that could have an ERA around 3.
3. It will take some time to come up with a contract that minimizes the risk for the club and maximizes the reward for the player.
4. I don’t think Ross is a pitcher you want to build around, rather he’s a pitcher who fits at the backend of the rotation. The Cubs are building around Lester and Hendricks after 2017. However, that period only last three years.
5. At 29 years of age, I think the Cubs can get a good 3 to 4 years out of him if he’s healthy. However, he has only pitched over 190 innings twice to go along with a 125 inning stint in 2013. There’s not a lot of mileage on that arm for a reason.
6. As a result, I think there is a certain amount of risk in signing him long term. Ross does have a lot of talent. The question is whether he stays healthy over the length of the deal. I could also see Montgomery and Ross taking turns this summer as the fifth starter as part of a six-man rotation for a while. This would allow Ross to keep his arm fresh, build up strength at a measured pace, and to use Montgomery to keep other starters fresh as well.
In the end, I think the key is to structure his contract and starts where he is rewarded for performance while at the same time protecting his health and the club.
I, particularly, would prefer a pitcher that is much younger and has much more team control. Free agent pitchers don’t come cheap.