With Bullpen Mostly Set, Cubs Still After Tyson Ross

When former Cubs trade target Tyson Ross was non-tendered by the Padres, there was a good deal of speculation about his fit with the reigning World Series champs. And while the Winter Meetings saw them focus on addressing their bullpen needs, the Cubs may now be looking to add to the rotation. Patrick Mooney reported Friday that the team is “still involved in the Ross talks,” though they’re surely not the only interested party.

After undergoing surgery to relieve pressure from thoracic outlet syndrome, the big righty is anything but a sure bet. But adding him now, when the Cubs already have five starters in place, would allow them time to see whether he can all the way back. If that happens, Ross provides an insurance plan against the loss of John Lackey and the potential departure of Jake Arrieta. Well, maybe.

With an asking price rumored to be in the $9-11 million AAV range (Ross had a projected arbitration salary of $9.6 million) without incentives, it’d be a pretty expensive gamble. I’m all for taking on a little acceptable risk, but there’d have to be some contingencies in the form of club options built into the deal in order for it to make any sense. Given the four to six month timetable for his return, Ross may not even be ready to pitch by the start of the season. Even then, there’s no guarantee he’ll be the same pitcher he once was.

For more of my thoughts on Ross being a fit for the Cubs, check out what I wrote last week (a little more on TOS and the pitchers who’ve undergone surgery for it, too). In short, their current situation allows him to be brought along slowly, slotting in as sort of a sixth starter and lengthening the rotation over the course of the season. We’ve seen time and again how beneficial it can be to have redundancy, especially when it comes to the starting rotation. And for a team that expects to go deep into the playoffs yet again, being able to ration innings without sacrificing talent would be a huge boon.

But that’s if Ross has no setbacks in his recovery and if he can return to form and if he’s willing to take a deal that makes sense for the Cubs…man, that’s a lot of ifs. It’s easy to look at it from a fan’s perspective and think that anyone should want to come and play for the World Series champs. The Cubs do have a good track record of rehabbing and getting the most out of pitchers, so that’s a mark in their favor too. What it comes down to is Ross making a decision based on what’s best for him as a baseball player and as a person.

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