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Indians free agent target: Tyson Ross, RHP

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Shoulder surgery ended his 2016 season, but he has a handful of great years under his belt.

Los Angeles Dodgers v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

The Cleveland Indians are one of 20 teams interested in free agent pitcher Tyson Ross, according to Jon Heyman.

That itself isn’t news because of course 20 teams are interested in a pitcher who was worth nine-and-a-half wins over three seasons. If he kept trending in the direction he was in prior to 2016, he probably would have been one of the top pitchers of this free agent class. Instead, an injured shoulder limited him to one start last season and the San Diego Padres non-tendered him to avoid paying upwards of $10 million for his services next season.

Ross, 29, relies on a deadly fastball-slider combination with an occasional changeup thrown in. His fastball velocity has been on a steady decline since it peaked around 95 miles per hour in 2013. It now settles in the high-93 range — or at least it did before he underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome last October. The recovery time for the surgery is estimated to be four to six months, so best case scenario is he is ready for spring training; worst case scenario he is the pitching equivalent of Michael Brantley.

A number of pitchers have had surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome — which in layman’s terms is a compression of nerves in the shoulder area — including Matt Harvey, Luke Hochevar, and Phil Hughes. Most notably, though, was Chris Young, who seemingly turned his career around at the young age of 35 with the Seattle Mariners in 2014 after going under the knife.

Before the injury, Ross earned every cent of the $9.6 million the Padres paid him in 2016 to avoid his first year of arbitration. His 2015 campaign was especially brilliant, having finished with a 3.26 ERA and 2.98 FIP. His walk rate was very Danny Salazar-esque at 10.2 percent, but he also struck out a quarter of the batters he faced.

As for the Indians’ interest in him, I do not think it’s all that improbable for them to take a shot. An injured player who could be way better than his market value simply because he’s injured? That’s textbook Indians front office fodder.

Yesterday I talked at length about the Indians’ so-called depth at starting pitcher, but that depth is all in number four or five guys. Adding Ross would mean direct competition for Danny Salazar’s three spot in the rotation if he’s healthy. You can never have too much pitching.