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MLB Winter Meetings 2018: Washington Nationals considering trading Tanner Roark?

If they’re able to add starting depth to the rotation via trade or free agency, dealing a pitcher like Tanner Roark might make sense, but for a team that isn’t deep in starters, it raises a few questions...

MLB: Washington Nationals at Chicago Cubs Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked, after trading Jefry Rodriguez to the Cleveland Indians as part of the package for Yan Gomes, about the starting depth in the organization, and thinning it out even more as they did with the move to get a catcher who could share duties behind the plate with Kurt Suzuki.

“It’s one starting candidate that we don’t have any more,” Rizzo explained.

“We thought Jefry’s primary role on our team in the future was going to be that long man in the bullpen, but we felt — you’ve got to give to get, and to get an All-Star catcher with a couple of years of control at the age he is, that it was a reasonable request and I thought it was a good baseball deal for both teams.”

“Right now we’ve got three or four good starting pitchers,” Davey Martinez told reporters at Winterfest on December 1st. “Yeah, we could add one more, maybe two, who knows, but I know Mike is working diligently to get another guy.”

A week later, the Nationals signed Patrick Corbin to a 6-year/$140M deal that gave them an impressive top three along with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.

Tanner Roark would seem like a nice No. 4 or 5, with Erick Fedde, Joe Ross, Austin Voth, and Kyle McGowin, or some prospects (Wil Crowe?) providing depth and options for the back of the rotation.

There are, however, reports that the Nationals are actively looking around for starting depth at the Winter Meetings.

Then last night there was a report from Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan, who cited sources who told him the Nats were shopping Tanner Roark out in Las Vegas.

The Nationals, according to Passan’s sources, have, “... engaged in multiple discussions to trade starter Tanner Roark, who is a year out from free agency and could make upward of $10M in arbitration.”

He added that the Nationals, “... continue to look at free agent pitchers to supplement their rotation.”

Washington Post writers Chelsea Janes and Jesse Dougherty too have reported that they have heard the Nationals, “... are open to dealing starting pitcher Tanner Roark, according to a person familiar with their plans,” while they’re still looking to add to the starting depth in the organization.

Roark, 32, finished the 2018 season (9-15) in 31 games (30 starts), with a 4.34 ERA, 4.27 FIP, 50 walks (2.50 BB/9), 146 Ks (7.29 K/9), and a .262/.319/.422 line against in 180 13 innings, earning $6.475M on a one-year deal after avoiding arbitration with the Nationals last winter, and he’s arbitration-eligible again this year, and due (in’s projections) to get a raise to around $9.8M for 2019.

If the Nationals acquired pitching in a Roark deal, or signed or traded for a pitcher first, it might make sense, considering Roark is one year from free agency and coming off an up and down campaign, but likely still has value as an inning-eating starter who has made a total of 30 or more starts in four of the last five seasons and only missed out on the fifth because the Nationals moved him to the bullpen in 2015.

If you had to guess, will Roark be in the Nationals’ rotation on Opening Day?