Posted on January 5, 2017 by Bryan Zarpentine
The free agent market hasn’t produced much in terms of impact starting pitchers this winter, but one of the most intriguing arms who remains unsigned is Tyson Ross. Last month, there were a reported 20 teams expressing interest in Ross, who appears to be in high demand despite missing most of 2016 with a shoulder injury. More recently, the Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs, and Washington Nationals have emerged as the favorites to sign Ross, as those are the teams showing the most interest in him.
Ross was a late addition to the free agent market after the San Diego Padres decided to non-tender him, not wanting to give a raise to a pitcher whose only big league start last year came on opening day. Shoulder inflammation prevented Ross from building upon impressive seasons in 2014 and 2015, as he combined for 23 wins for the lowly Padres over those two years.
After being unable to come back from the shoulder issue before the end of the season, Ross ultimately underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome in October. Recovery from that surgery is four to six months, so there is some level of uncertainty regarding whether or not Ross will be fully recovered by opening day. However, several teams appear willing to take a chance on Ross based on the possibility that he’ll be able to return to the form he had in 2014 and 2015.
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The Rangers are currently the frontrunners to sign Ross after he reportedly visited with the team on Wednesday. Texas is in dire need of a mid-rotation starter and believe that Ross is the best starter still available on the free agent market. On Wednesday, there were reports that talks between the Rangers and Ross were “heating up,” but on Thursday it was reported that nothing was imminent between the two sides.
The Cubs are also considered one of the favorites to sign Ross. Chicago let Jason Hammel go at the start of the offseason, opening up a spot in the starting rotation. Most believe lefty Mike Montgomery will be moved into the rotation to replace Hammel, who also remains unsigned amidst a cold market for starters. However, the Cubs like the upside that Ross offers and have remained in contact with him throughout the winter. Chicago, of course, already has four proven starters penciled into the starting rotation, making Ross a little bit of a luxury, but a luxury the world champs like nonetheless.
Washington has also emerged as a possible destination for Ross, although the Rangers and Cubs remain the favorites. Tyson’s younger brother, Joe Ross, appears to be the favorite to be Washington’s fifth starter heading into spring training. The Nationals, like the Cubs, have four established starters, but GM Mike Rizzo has not been shy about looking for pitching this winter, as evidenced by their interest in Chris Sale. The Nationals also lost rotation depth when they traded Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez in the Adam Eaton trade earlier this winter. Tyson may be intrigued by playing alongside his brother, although barring a trade of Gio Gonzalez, which was rumored earlier this winter, there may not be room in Washington’s rotation for both Ross boys.
Of course, as recently as Wednesday, Ross was reportedly set to choose from as many as six suitors, meaning there could be as many as three mystery teams with significant interest in signing him. The Rangers and Cubs appear to be the most likely landing spots, although ending up with either is far from guaranteed. Things appear to be coming to a conclusion with regard to Ross picking a team, but no decision has been made yet, as the soon-to-be 30-year old continues to weigh his many options.