11:30am: FOX’s Ken Rosenthal tweets that the Nationals, too, covet Ross but are considered a “long shot” to land his services. Joe Ross, Tyson’s younger brother, is currently penciled into the Nationals’ rotation, so there’s some appeal beyond financial incentive for Tyson to ponder a match with the Nats. Then again, Washington also lacks a clear spot in the rotation for him. In addition to the younger Ross brother, the Nats project to utilize Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez in their starting five next season (though Gonzalez has been mentioned as a possible trade candidate at various times this winter).
10:25am: A deal between the Rangers and Ross was not close as of last night, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Ross did meet with the Rangers yesterday, and the team considers him the best available starting pitcher in free agency, per Wilson. However, the Rangers aren’t expecting Ross to be ready to open the season and aren’t likely to offer anything beyond a one-year deal.
JAN. 5, 7:20am: Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reports that Ross also met with the Cubs shortly before yesterday’s meeting with Texas (Twitter link). The Rangers and Cubs are considered the two favorites to sign the right-hander, according to Passan.
Presumably, once Ross is healthy enough to take the mound, he would push left-hander Mike Montgomery from the fifth spot in the rotation back to the bullpen. That’d give the Cubs a rotation consisting of Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, John Lackey and Ross, with Montgomery standing as the first line of defense in the event of an injury.
While there’s certainly plenty about Montgomery that makes him an intriguing rotation candidate, he’s undeniably had more success in the bullpen to this point in his career. In 125 2/3 innings out of the rotation, the former top prospect has a 4.23 ERA with 7.0 K/9, 3.7 BB/9 and a 52.8 percent ground-ball rate. In 65 2/3 innings of relief work, though, he’s logged a pristine 2.10 earned run average to go along with 8.1 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and a 58.9 percent ground-ball rate.
Looking beyond the pure numbers, the Cubs also have a clear need for some additional left-handed relief. As it stands, Brian Duensing, Caleb Smith and Rob Zastryzny are the top candidates to serve as southpaw options out of manager Joe Maddon’s bullpen.
JAN. 4, 4:00pm: Ross is visiting the Rangers today, tweets Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Per Heyman, Ross is still choosing among six potential suitors, though he’s getting closer to making a decision.
3:54pm: Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweets that Ross’ asking price has dropped since the Winter Meetings, and talks are indeed advancing between Ross’ camp and the Rangers.
3:50pm: The Rangers are being aggressive in their pursuit of free-agent righty Tyson Ross as they try to strike up a deal, reports MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan (on Twitter). Talks between the two sides “are definitely heating up,” Sullivan adds, further noting that the Rangers “really like” Ross.
[Related: Texas Rangers Depth Chart]
Ross, 30 in April, didn’t pitch last season after Opening Day as he battled ongoing shoulder problems that culminated in surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome. Not wishing to pay him a repeat of last year’s $9.6MM salary, the Padres cut bait on Ross and non-tendered him, though they were said to be amenable to negotiating a return with a lower guarantee. Ross, however, has reportedly been seeking a comparable $9-11MM on a one-year deal in free agency (before incentives), and roughly two-thirds of the league has expressed some level of interest.
The reason for that widespread interest isn’t difficult to see. While Ross undoubtedly represents a roll of the metaphorical dice given his recent surgery, he’s expected to be ready at or near the beginning of the season and was one of the National League’s better all-around performers on the mound in the years leading up to his injury. From 2013-15, Ross totaled 516 2/3 innings for the Padres, working to a 3.07 ERA with 9.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a gaudy 58.2 percent ground-ball rate.
The Rangers, as it stands, project to trot out Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, Andrew Cashner and A.J. Griffin in their 2017 rotation. However, Cashner is coming off a dismal season split between the Padres and Marlins, while Griffin was a non-tender candidate himself (5.07 ERA in 119 innings in 2016) but was retained quite possibly due to what is expected to be a low price tag in arbitration. There’s no guarantee, of course, that Ross will be ready to begin the season, though it stands to reason that he’d bump Griffin out of the starting mix when he’s ultimately ready to pitch at the Major League level. That could push Griffin to long relief, though his projected $1.9MM salary is perfectly reasonable for a pitcher in that role.
In addition to the Rangers and Padres, the Cubs, Pirates, Twins, Mariners, Giants and Indians have all been connected to Ross to varying extents over the course of the winter thus far.