The MLB trade deadline is now just a week away, and it’s unclear what the Yankees’ plan is. Having just sent down Domingo German, the starting rotation is an obvious area of need. Will the Yankees turn to internal replacements, like Luis Cessa, Justus Sheffield, and Chance Adams? Or will they continue to scour the market for a starter?
Tyson Ross has long appeared like a potential solution. We profiled the 31-year-old right-hander a couple months ago as a trade target. Given his status as an upcoming free agent this winter, Ross seemed like a rotation upgrade that could come on the cheap.
The last time we checked in on Ross, he was having a strong campaign. He maintained a 3.13 ERA over his first 10 starts with the Padres, striking out 64 batters compared to 23 walks. Those numbers lined up well with Ross’ figures from his 2013-2015 peak, when he posted a 3.07 ERA across 516.2 innings, posting a 9.2 K/9 rate and a 3.5 BB/9 rate.
At that point, Ross was one of the better rental candidates on the market. Since then, however, he has struggled. Over his past 10 starts, Ross owns a 5.60 ERA across 53 innings. His strikeout rate over that span is a paltry 6.5 per nine. After holding opponents to a .620 OPS over his first ten starts, they have run an .850 OPS since.
What has gone wrong? Well, it appears that a host of small things have combined to take Ross’ performance down a few notches. He has yielded 10 homers over his past ten starts, compared to just five over his first ten. His strand rate is six points lower over his past ten starts. His swinging strike rate has fallen from 10.5% to 7.3%, possibly due to the fact that opposing hitters have cut down on their chase rate against Ross.
Falling velocity could help explain some of Ross’ troubles. Per Brooks Baseball, Ross’ four-seam fastball sat at 92.1 mph in April, nearly league average for a starter. That’s fallen to 91.4 mph in July. Less optimal pitch usage also might be a problem. Ross has used his slider, his best pitch, 40% of the time in July, down seven points from April. Instead, he has used his cutter more, a pitch hitters have posted a .325 average and .584 slugging against this year.
Taken in aggregate, Ross’ numbers on the year aren’t terrible. He has a 4.29 ERA and 4.48 FIP on the season, with walk and strikeout rates right around league average. That said, he’s trending in the wrong direction, and looks less enticing with each passing start.
Ross’ middling overall season, taken in concert with the fact that he hardly pitched between 2016 and 2017, makes him an unappealing trade candidate at this point. FanGraphs’ depth chart projections agree, pegging Ross for a 4.66 ERA in 62 innings the rest of the way.
Unless the Yankees can get Ross essentially for free, they’re probably better off hoping for superior production from within than trying to bring in Ross. He has the look of a fungible fifth starter at this point. The Yankees can probably manufacture fifth-starter production with in-house options, and if they want more, they might have better luck looking elsewhere on the trade market.