After three very good years in San Diego, Tyson Ross finds himself on the trade block. Ross, 28, is still two years away from free agency, and is one of the best young, controllable arms in the game. In three years with the Padres, Ross has registered a 3.07 ERA in over 500 innings. In a bigger market, on a better team, Ross would be mentioned among the league’s best young right-handers, but he plays for the Padres and has a 26-34 record with the team, despite his stellar performance.
For the Padres, trading Ross seems to make sense, but is that the best decision? With the Oakland Athletics unlikely to trade Sonny Gray, the Chicago White Sox not moving Chris Sale any time soon, the Washington Nationals undecided about the fate of Stephen Strasburg, and the Miami Marlins holding onto Jose Fernandez for at least another season, Ross may be the best young pitcher available for trade.
The Padres went all-in for 2015, A.J. Preller’s first year leading the front office, and fell totally flat. Craig Kimbrel has already been traded as the Padres look to regroup. A team that has always struggled to develop young offensive talent will likely look to trade Ross for a young, MLB-ready position player. One of the more likely destinations seems to be the Chicago Cubs, with their overabundance of talent at shortstop/second base and the outfield. A trade for Starlin Castro, Javier Baez, or Jorge Soler may be too tasty for Preller to pass up.
Unless the Padres are really blown away, however, their focus should be on adding a few more years to Ross’s deal this offseason. The six-year veteran is in his second year of arbitration eligibility, and will not be a free agent until after the 2017 season. If Ross is attractive as a trade chip now, with only two years of guaranteed control, how much more valuable would he be if the Padres could add three or four more years of control? The market for Tyson Ross will not be drying up any time soon.
For the Padres, locking up Ross for a few more years would be a sign of stability from a front office that has shown no real plan. The plan for the 2015 season was to blow up the farm system to trade for Justin Upton, Kimbrel, Matt Kemp, and Wil Myers. In the process, the Padres gave up a lot, and got very little in return. It’s safe to say the entire first year of Preller was a flop in San Diego.
Going forward, the Padres still need a staff ace. Tyson Ross, not James Shields, was the best pitcher in San Diego last year. Ross still has his flaws, and walks too many men, but he is improving. He has raised his strikeout rate while lowering his home run rate each of the past three years. With a devastating, heavy sinker and a swing-and-miss slider, Ross is the perfect pitcher to dominate in PetCo Park. There is no certainty in the rotation behind Ross and Shields, and last year’s big ticket item may continue his decline.
The Padres have tried for years to build a team around young offensive talent, something they will continue doing by trading Tyson Ross. That’s the wrong approach for a team that plays its home games in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the league. A pitcher like Tyson Ross, who is perfectly suited for that park, should be held onto and built around, not traded away for the next big-time prospect who will “develop” into a .260 hitter with little run production.
The Padres should still keep their options open when it comes to trading Tyson Ross, but it would not be a bad idea to make him part of the long-term plan in San Diego. Adding a few more team-friendly years to the contract of this young pitcher would make him even more valuable in the event of a trade, while also providing a modicum of stability to a roster that has seemingly been in a state of constant churn since A.J. Preller stormed into town. While it is unlikely to come to pass, the San Diego Padres should consider extending, rather than trading, Tyson Ross this offseason.