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Cubs Free Agent Target: Tyson Ross

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Ross has talent, but will he be healthy?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

If an article here about the Cubs’ possible pursuit of Tyson Ross seems familiar, it’s because I wrote one just about a year ago, suggesting that Ross could have been a trade target for the 2016 season.

2016 worked out just fine for the Cubs, and for Ross it was a season mostly lost to injury, as he made just one start due to various injuries, including spraining his ankle in his hotel room when he was almost set for a rehab assignment.

Now, there are rumors that the Cubs — as well as other teams — are interested in Ross despite the fact that he had surgery October 13 to fix what was described as thoracic outlet syndrome. The recovery period was stated to be "four to six months," meaning he could possibly be ready for spring training — or, perhaps not even pick up a baseball until the rest of the big leagues have already started.

Thoracic outlet syndrome has become a minor epidemic among major-league pitchers. According to this article, it’s affected, over the last several seasons: Matt Harvey, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Shaun Marcum and Chris Young, among others. Some of those pitchers made it back to their previous levels of performance, some did not.

In the Tribune, Mark Gonzales posted a mailbag Tuesday morning in which he answered a question about Ross this way:

There’s an outside chance that Ross will be ready by April, but no guarantees at this point.

My main point is this: The Padres got into trouble for issuing information on medical reports to teams that was separate than their files. So if they elected not to pick up the $11 million option on Ross for 2017, they must have a pretty good idea about the severity of Ross’ thoracic outlet syndrome ailment.

Ross is a very good pitcher and would be a good fit at Wrigley Field if healthy. But the Cubs are understandably concerned about the workloads of their pitchers after two lengthy postseasons.

I can see a scenario where Cubs construct a proposal based on innings pitched in 2017 that would trigger an option for 2018 and give the Cubs some protection and security for 2018. The search for young starting pitchers is more important than anyone realizes.

That would be a good contract offer for Ross from the Cubs’ standpoint, and for Ross if he’s ready to pitch a significant number of innings. But with Mike Montgomery slated to be the Cubs’ fifth starter, Ross would likely wind up at Iowa for much of the year. And then there’s this:

Evan Grant is a Rangers beat writer; Texas has been one of the teams also interested in Ross. CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney quoted Theo Epstein last week in relation to Ross (and other pitchers out there):

"Those really talented pitchers are going to be in demand, even those that are coming off an injury," Cubs president Theo Epstein said this week at National Harbor. "We’ll stay engaged on some of those guys, but they’ll have to be just the right talent.

"We’ll have to feel good about the medical and the return to play. And the fit on the club would have to be right, too. But the true elite guys have a real market, even if they’re coming off down seasons."

Ross had a very good year in 2015, posting a 3.26 ERA, 2.96 FIP and 1.306 WHIP, with 3.1 bWAR. One slight downside: Ross led the major leagues in walks in 2015, and led the National League in wild pitches. If he’s healthy, he’d be a good candidate for Bosmosis, to cut down on those.

Ross will turn 30 in April. The suggestion above, that he be given an incentive-laden contract for 2017 with an option for 2018 — a year where the Cubs could need as many as two starting pitchers — might be the way to go if the Cubs decide to take a chance on him.