Tyson Ross Is Fascinating New Possibility on Dismal MLB Free-Agent Market

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistDecember 2, 2016

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Tyson Ross #38 of the San Diego Padres pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants at Petco Park September 22, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Under normal circumstances, a pitcher coming off a major shoulder procedure who posted an 11.81 ERA in extremely limited action the previous season wouldn't be a winter head-turner.

These aren't normal circumstances.

The free-agent shelves are bare, especially in the starting pitcher department. Marquee trade options may require ludicrous expenditures of young talent. 

Enter Tyson Ross. Flawed as he is, he's a name worth following.

On Friday, the San Diego Padres didn't tender Ross a contract, making the 29-year-old right-hander a free agent.

Ross underwent thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in October. The recovery time is usually between four and six months, per AJ Cassavell of MLB.com, which means Ross could be available at the start of the 2017 season if not before.

It's always a gamble to sink dollars into a player recovering from a debilitating injury, especially a pitcher. Not so long ago, however, Ross was a sizzling hot commodity.

In 2014, he posted a 2.81 ERA with 195 strikeouts in 195.2 innings and made the All-Star team. In 2015, he fanned 212 in 196 innings with a 3.26 ERA.

His name floated through the trade-rumor mill last winter, but the Pads had some justifiably sky-high demands, as CBS Sports' Matt Snyder noted:

It's easy to conjure Javier Baez's breakout performance in the 2016 postseason and scoff at the notion. It shows, however, how high Ross' stock was soaring.

Coughing up seven earned runs in his only 2016 start—on Opening Day, no lessand eventually going under the knife knocked Ross down several dozen pegs. 

But in a dismal class headlined by 36-year-old Rich Hill followed by a mishmash of middling options such as Jason Hammel, Ivan Nova and Doug Fister, Ross sparkles with high-reward possibility. 

There are high-profile trade candidates such as the Chicago White Sox's Chris Sale and Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander, but they'll cost a trove of prospects.

Ross, on the other hand, won't take minor league chips and could be had on a shorter-term, incentive-laden deal. 

Other pitchers have returned successfully from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. Jaime Garcia underwent the procedure in 2014 and posted a 2.43 ERA the following season for the St. Louis Cardinals

It's not all sunshine and roses. It's an uncommon surgery, and the results are often less than stellar, as Nick Lampe of Beyond the Box Score starkly spelled out.

Still, Ross will surely draw attention from a number of clubs, including—but by no means limited to—the Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins, New York Yankees and Baltimore OriolesPhil Rogers of MLB.com said Ross has been "a favorite" of the Chicago Cubs front office for some time.

Even the Friars aren't slamming the door.

"The interest is there for us," San Diego general manager A.J. Preller said after the Padres non-tendered Ross, per Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. "We know what kind of competitor he is, what kind of worker he is." 

San Diego GM A.J. Preller suggested the Pads could bring Ross back.
San Diego GM A.J. Preller suggested the Pads could bring Ross back.Denis Poroy/Getty Images

The Pads, CBS Sports' Matt Snyder noted, would likely have had to pay Ross upward of $10 million in arbitration, so any reunion would require a significant cut from that high-water mark. 

More likely, Ross will don a different uniform and become a classic reclamation project.

He's not a sure thing. He might even be a long shot. He's a possible diamond in the rubble, however, the type of player we could be looking back on in nine or 10 months while talking about bargains and rebirths. 

The projection systems are bullish, with Steamer foretelling a 3.41 ERA in 181 innings. That's the stuff of a solid mid-rotation starter.

What if Ross could regain his 2014-15 mojo, though? What if he could transform back into the All-Star who warranted Javy Baez rumors?

Is that probable? No. Possible? You bet.

If you can't dream in early December, when can you?