When the San Diego Padres didn’t tender a contract to starting pitcher Tyson Ross on Friday, he instantly became a free agent able to sign with any club. Adding the 2014 all-star to a very thin free agent class adds a measure of intrigue and a sure bet to fuel the hot stove. But, there’s a catch.
Ross was San Diego’s Opening Day starter, but he missed the remainder of 2016 due to shoulder issues. The news worsened for the 29-year-old in early October when he underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome — a procedure that typically requires the removal of a rib. If all goes well, the right-hander could be available by Spring Training.
So, why did the Padres pass on their former ace? Money. Ross is projected to make $9.6 million in salary arbitration. It’s possible that the Friars could still attempt to re-sign him, but now they’ll have to compete with 29 other clubs.
Thoracic outlet syndrome isn’t new phenomenon in the big leagues. Matt Harvey of the New York Mets went under the knife for the same thing in July and recently began a throwing program, while former Kansas City Royal Luke Hochevar had surgery in August and is rehabbing. Other pitchers who’ve undergone surgery for this condition include former Seattle Mariner Chris Young, Jaime Garcia, Clayton Richard, and the now-retired Josh Beckett.
As with any surgery, recovery varies with each patient and that’s where the mystery comes into play with Ross. Will he return as a top-of-the-rotation contributor, end up as a reliever. or fall somewhere in between? That brings me to question I posed in the title?
Should the Seattle Mariners consider Tyson Ross?
That’s what some Seattle fans are pondering, especially after general manager Jerry Dipoto told Brock Huard and Mike Salk of 710 ESPN Seattle that he wants to “improve the quality at the higher end” of his rotation. Based on Ross’ performance during 2015, it’s worth discussing. Here’s a look at his stat line with major league rankings in parenthesis.
|Tyson Ross in 2015|
Ross certainly had a great year in 2015. But, does that mean that the Mariners should sign him with the intent of plugging the hurler into the middle of their rotation?
Acquiring Ross could prove beneficial to the Mariners. But, doing so would merely add another layer of uncertainty to a Mariners rotation already chock full of unknowns.
Felix Hernandez is coming off an injury-plagued and inconsistent season, Hisashi Iwakuma is entering his age-36 season, James Paxton is an enigma, Nate Karns is coming back from an injury-shortened and ineffective year, and Ariel Miranda is unproven as are newly acquired arms Rob Whalen and Max Povse. Adding another question mark doesn’t improve Seattle’s stock going into 2017.
Some fans may counter that Young bounced back from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery to be named 2014 American League Comeback Player of the Year during his lone season with the Mariners.
That’s true. But, Young was signed by Seattle to be the team’s number-five starter after being released in Spring Training by the Washington Nationals.
This brings me to the bigger issue for the Mariners. They needed rotation help before trading Taijuan Walker. His departure only exacerbates their situation. In reality, the club needs two more major league starters in order to reach the necessary depth and quality serious postseason contenders require.
If Dipoto were to add a “higher end” starter similar to those recently discussed by me or suggested by Prospect Insider founder Jason A. Churchill in early November, signing Ross for the back of their rotation makes more sense for the Mariners. That’s assuming he’d accept a lower base salary with performance incentives that could bring his pay close to his projected arbitration price.
Assuming Ross approved a deal that helped mitigate the risk associated with a pitcher returning from surgery, he’d be an appealing target for many clubs — including the Mariners. Doing so would present the former second round pick of the Oakland Athletics with an opportunity to reestablish himself and reenter the free market after next season.
Under those conditions the answer is yes, the Mariners should consider Tyson Ross. Otherwise, I suggest passing on the free agent.