The Cubs’ continued interest in Tyson Ross is no secret, and Bruce Levine’s recent report on the topic provides little of note on a macro level. It does, however, give us additional insight into just how and why a team that appears to have its rotation set would want to pursue a starter coming off shoulder surgery.
First, the money. While initial reports had Ross seeking a contract in the $10 million AAV range without incentives, he may well be amenable to a more creative solution that allows him to earn close to that total without requiring a huge leap of faith from the team that signs him.
“(Ross) will get close to that amount with an incentive-based contract,” a top National League exec told Levine. “That is my guess. You need to get a shot at two-year control if you can.”
The last part of that statement is a no-brainer, as it’d be a tremendous waste for a team to take a risk on Ross only to see him bolt after a single season. On the other hand, you don’t want to guarantee much beyond one year for a guy who is trying to bounce back from a procedure that effectively ended the careers of other elite arms like Josh Beckett and Chris Carpenter. Then again, Jaime Garcia hasn’t seemed much worse for the wear.
That surgery and the Padres’ ensuing non-tender could end up being a real blessing for the Cubs, who have tried to trade for Ross more than once. Most notable was the deadline deal in 2015 that would have sent Starlin Castro to San Diego, but that fell apart when the Padres favored Javier Baez in return instead. And the two teams were actually engaged in talks on another trade for Ross prior to his release.
Given the exorbitant market for pitching, it’s easy to see why any team would have interest in an All-Star who barely costs eight figures. As we’ve seen time and again from this front office, though, it’s about more than just talent. The Cubs covet players who bring great personality and clubhouse presence to the table as well. I guess that’s more of a guideline than a rule when it comes to fleshing out a championship roster, but makeup is still a big part of what the Cubs look for in draft picks and acquisitions.
“Tyson Ross is a fine young pitcher when he is healthy,” Levine heard from another NL exec. “He is an even better person than he is a player. His makeup for me is off the chart. Great teammate, just an all-around, top-quality person.”
Boom, that’s what I like to hear. Being a good person doesn’t win you any ballgames, though it sure does make things more palatable for fans. Also makes it easier for the guys on the roster to welcome a new teammate and bear with the inevitable uncertainty of a comeback from surgery.
Sounds like it’s pretty much a slam dunk, huh? Not quite. Previous speculation has had the Dodgers as a potential suitor, although that was before new deals for Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner pushed them over the luxury tax threshold for at least the next two years. The Padres might be interested at a significant discount. And the Rangers, perhaps the Cubs’ most formidable competition in this pursuit, are said to be actively working on a deal with Ross’s agent.
All things considered — health, cost, how to manipulate the roster — there’s a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the potential acquisition of Tyson Ross. There’s also a great deal of potential and the certainty that the Cubs would be adding another solid character. I’ve made it pretty clear that I’d love to see this happen and that I believe the risk is worth the reward.
Of course, I’m not the only one who feels that way. The question now is where Ross believes he can find the greatest reward, both in terms of finances and future. Will that be Chicago? I think we’ll find out before too long.