Blue Jays trade deadline target: Tyson Ross?
Tyson Ross of the Padres might be a particularly good trade fit for the Blue Jays
The San Diego Padres and Blue Jays have hooked up for one trade so far, with Melvin Upton Jr. coming to the Jays for single-A prospect Hansel Rodriguez.. But this might not be the only deal in the works, as the Jays are said to also be looking for starting pitching. Several of the Pads players have been mentioned as possible trade candidates for the Blue Jays – most notably Andrew Cashner – but the most interesting candidate might be a player with only 5 innings pitched in 2016 ,Tyson Ross.
Ross has an interesting history. He started his career with the A’s where (with the exception of a good stretch in 2011) he struggled. Traded to the Padres in 2013 (for not a whole lot) he blossomed, pitching to a 3.04 ERA (3.14 xFIP) from 2013-15 on the back of a slider that ranks as one of the best pitches in baseball. But in April of 2016 Ross injured his shoulder, and just when he was getting close to returning in July he tweaked his ankle while working out in his hotel room. He is now playing long toss, and is expected to return in late August.
So why Ross?
Other trade partners might be turned off by the timing of Ross’ return. He will likely only be able to provide one month of regular season help. That could well reduce San Diego’s asking price. But, for the Jays, the timing of Ross’ return might fit well with Sanchez’s move to the bullpen, making this delay less critical.
Also, Ross has one more year of (relatively) cheap team control. 2017 is his last arbitration year, and given how much time he missed in 2016 it is unlikely that he will get a huge raise over the $9.6 million he is making in 2016.
In terms of his pitching style, Ross is an extreme groundball pitcher. In 2015, his 61.5% ground ball percentage was third highest in baseball among qualified starters. This tendency makes him an excellent fit for a team who plays their home games in a homer-friendly park, and who have an exceptional infield defense. A team like … the Blue Jays.
Of course, there are risks. High slider use is said to increase the risk of injury. Ross has been healthy so far, with 195+ innings in 2014 and 2015, but it is not certain that he will come back completely healthy – or even if he does, that he will stay healthy. But in theory, that should fit into the risk:reward calculation, reducing the price the Jays would have to pay. It is also possible that he could be affected by the adjustments made by umpires in 2016: some believe that umpires have studied statscast data to call fewer low strikes for pitchers who live outside the black. And finally, Ross’ reliance on the fastball and slider (together, ~95% of pitches thrown in 2014 and 2015) without a clear third pitch is troubling (though he has been working on a cutter).
The bottom line
There is always risk in trading for an injured player. This is doubly true of a pitcher, and triply so when you are counting on that pitcher to help you with the current year’s pennant drive. But often the key to success is to do your homework and take intelligent risks (whimper – Chapman – whimper). Ross looks like the kind of player that would be worth the risk.