When I first started watching baseball, near the trade deadline a commentator remarked, “you can never have too much pitching.” I believe that to be completely true. Given the nature of pitching, the injuries, the cold streaks, and the necessity pitching brings to your team, I believe that pitching is the most important position in baseball.
This year’s trade deadline will be no different than previous; every team needing pitching will be on the phone making deals. As we inch closer to the trade deadline, teams will look to fill in any gaps in their rotation. One such gap-filler is San Diego Padres starter Tyson Ross. Ross has had his fair share of ups and downs. Between 2013-2015, Ross was on the fast track to becoming a front line starter. Posting solid ERA, FIP, xFIP numbers in the low threes and high twos combined with a high strikeout rate, Ross had certainly caught eyes across the league.
Then 2016 hit, Ross went down with shoulder surgery after just one start and then he needed another surgery in the fall for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, a condition that is growing in frequency among pitchers. He returned in mid-June after signing a deal in January of 2017 with the Texas Rangers, however he struggled mightily, only pitching six innings once in ten starts and eventually the Rangers assigned him to relief duties.
Although his numbers this season aren’t quite what they were from 2013-2015, they are very solid, especially for a team is looking for a back-of-the-rotation guy that can eat innings. With an ERA, FIP, xFIP split of 4.29, 4.48 and 4.13 respectively so far, he’s not excelling but he’s not really struggling either. He’s pitched at least six innings in 13 of his 20 starts so far. He’s also brought his strikeout numbers back up to a respectable 21.1 percent and his walk rate is down to 9.5 percent. Both of within a couple of percentage points of his really solid 2013-2015 run.
Another solid aspect to acquiring Ross is that he’s on a cheap one year, $1.75 million contract. If he doesn’t pan out, the team that acquires him isn’t out much, other than what they give up in a trade because there’s no long term commitment. The one key factor with Ross is his Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery. From past cases we know this is very similar to Tommy John in that it usually takes two full seasons of work in order to regain the strength, and therefore the velocity, that the pitcher once had. Sometimes it’s never the same, such as the case of Matt Harvey. Ross’ secondary pitch velocity has ticked up a few miles per hour between his return in 2017 and this season according to Brooks Baseball, so the fastball velocity should follow along here soon.
Right now, the front-runner to acquire Ross has to be the New York Yankees, as they have already inquired with the Padres about him. Furthermore they could really use someone like Ross to round out their rotation. Luis Severino is busy being the bona fide ace of the squad and we’ve seen a solid resurgence from CC Sabathia, however, the rest of the rotation hasn’t been all that great. Sonny Gray has struggled mightily and Masahiro Tanaka continues to preform below expectations. Right now, their fifth man is Luis Cessa who has only made two starts, one of which he threw only three innings.
Some other potential landing spots for Ross include the Seattle Mariners who don’t have that much of a rotation to begin with. Oakland is another spot if they’re serious about contending, which they seem to be. Washington is another highly probable team that could use another starter, especially on the back-end of the rotation. Some other less probable spots including Atlanta, Arizona, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia, as they already have decent rotations, but it couldn’t hurt to add another starter.
The good news for these teams is, given Ross’ contract and his recent performance, it shouldn’t take too much to pry him from San Diego, who will undoubtedly be looking to acquire prospects given their current standing. All in all, Ross could be a huge bargain as we are less than a week from the deadline and teams will look for higher tiered starters. This could allow a team to swoop in and grab Ross for a halfway decent prospect.