Tanner Roark was a 25th Round pick in the 2008 Draft by the Texas Rangers, acquired by the Washington Nationals along with right-hander Ryan Tatusko in a July 2010 trade that sent Cristian Guzman to the Rangers.
Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo described Roark as an organization success story in an MLB Network Radio interview in 2014, explaining that the Nationals’, “professional scouts, Jay Robertson in particular, and our scouting department identified him in a trade that we made a while back. It was a low-level trade with Cristian Guzman and got ourselves two good arms that we really liked and player development has really allowed this kid to step to the next level. He’s a very confident pitcher on the mound. He’s got four good pitches. He’s not a soft-tossing, command-only guy. He can run it up to 94-95 if he has to. He pitches at 90-92, 93 with his sinker, but his command has really separated him from the pack in our organization and he’s a guy that can really pitch to four quadrants of the plate with four pitches and on any given day can really go out there and handcuff some good-hitting ballclubs.”
”He’s been a great story for us and a really good scouting and player development story in general,” Rizzo added.
Four years later, and around twenty-four hours after Rizzo acknowledged that teams called about Roark after the Nationals signed Patrick Corbin, Roark is a member of the Cincinnati Reds’ rotation.
Rizzo traded Roark to the Reds tonight in a deal for a hard-throwing 25-year-old reliever, Tanner Rainey, who put up solid numbers at Triple-A and made his MLB debut in 2018.
Roark went 64-54 in 182 games and 141 starts with the Nationals, posting a 3.59 ERA, a 3.91 FIP, 2.53 BB/9, and 7.05 K/9 in 935 innings coming off a (9-15) 2018 season for the 32-year-old starter, who posted a 4.34 ERA, a 4.27 FIP, 50 walks (2.50 BB/9), 146 Ks (7.29 K/9), and a .262/.319/.422 line against in 180 1⁄3 IP, earning $6.475M on a one-year deal after he avoided arbitration with the Nats last January.
Ken Rosenthal wrote on Twitter this morning that the Nationals liked the pitcher, but weren’t sure Roark’s performance in 2018 justified the $10M he is projected to get in arbitration this winter.
The trade caught Roark by surprise in spite of the fact that his name came up in the last 48 hours, with Rizzo explaining last night that teams started calling about what they viewed as a surplus of starting pitching in D.C. after the Nats signed Corbin to a six-year/$140M deal earlier this month.
“Surprised, but it’s the name of the game,” Roark told reporters in a conference call from the 2018 MLB Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.
“This is the way this business is,” he added. “So I’m a Cincinnati Red now, so pretty excited.”
Roark was asked if he expected something to happen after the Nationals signed Corbin.
“No,” he said.
“I thought we had a pretty good staff over there in DC, but they thought otherwise, and I don’t know what their plans are. So I’m just grateful to be a National and there were good times over there.”
Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez told reporters on Tuesday that he hoped for big things from Roark in 2019 after an up and down season from the starter in the skipper’s first year on the bench in the nation’s capital.
“Tanner started off, three months where he was good, three months where he was bad,” Martinez said.
“Hopefully we get the three months where he was good all year next year, and I’m looking forward to that. He’s a smart guy. He picks [Max] Scherzer’s brain, he picks [Stephen Strasburg’s] brain. Hopefully he comes back and pitches like he’s capable of pitching.”
Roark went (9-15) in 31 games and 30 starts last season, posting a 4.34 ERA, a 4.27 FIP, 50 walks (2.50 BB/9), 146 Ks (7.29 K/9), and a .262/.319/.422 line against in 180 1⁄3 IP in 2018.
Reds’ GM Nick Krall told reporters tonight that Cincinnati was getting a solid middle-of-the-rotation arm.
“He’s a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter that just can come in and anchor our staff,” Krall said.
“It’s a good first step to improving our starting staff. And with what he brings to the table, it’s the overall package of him being that middle rotation guy.”
Roark was asked about his time in D.C., how he was used, and the fact that he was moved out of the rotation at times (in 2015 after a 15-win season), before settling into the rotation over the last three seasons. Does he leave holding any grudges?
“No, life’s too short to hold grudges,” Roark said. “But that’s what they wanted to do, you know. If they can live with it, then they live with it, you know? They treated me great. But there were times to where I would be very frustrated and I’d get pissed off. But that made me stronger mentally and how to handle certain things like that. So it helped me.”
Getting a chance to start and anchor the rotation with the Reds, Roark said, is another big opportunity.
“Yeah, I’m excited just to go there. I don’t care about No. 1s,” he said. “No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, it doesn’t matter. After everybody has pitched the first five games, there is no more No. 1, you just keep going. So I don’t care about being the oldest guy, oldest pitcher or starter or whatnot there. I’m just going to do -- I’m going to spread my knowledge and learn from these guys and get to know these guys. And I’m excited to get to know them.”