The Nationals’ signing of Max Scherzer dropped righty Tanner Roark — one of the most effective starters in baseball in 2014 — to the bullpen, and Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com examines what the best role for Roark is in 2015. As Zuckerman notes, Roark ranks sixth or better in ERA, WHIP and opponents’ OPS dating back to Aug. 7, 2013, when he made his big league debut. One could make a case, therefore, that he is deserving of a high-leverage spot in what will be a new-look Nationals bullpen, but reducing him to a one-inning role complicates matters if he needs to be stretched out due to an injury to another starter. However, if he’s used in a long relief role, that will limit his usage, particularly given how strong the starting five project to be. The way in which Roark will be deployed figures to be a fascinating storyline for Nats fans, and I should note that there could be longer-reaching ramifications. Pitching in a high-leverage setup role for a year would likely be better for Roark’s first arbitration case as opposed to being used as a long man; accumulating holds and possibly the occasional save would likely be better for his financial future than pitching in blowout games, as many long relievers end up doing. Of course, Roark isn’t arb-eligible until the 2016-17 offseason, so he should still have another season of starting duty to add to his first arbitration platform.
Some more NL East items as Spring Training games draw near…
- Previous reports have indicated that the Phillies may add veteran depth at shortstop and catcher during Spring Training, but MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki clarifies that the team will only make a move if it is first determined that younger options such as Freddy Galvis and Cameron Rupp aren’t able to fill those roles. Non-roster alternatives are in place at each position, such as Andres Blanco and Chase d’Arnaud at short and Koyie Hill and John Hester behind the dish. However, none of those players has much of a big league track record.
- Matt Reynolds feels comfortable at shortstop and tells Kevin Kernan of the New York Post that he thinks he can help the team at the position in 2015. Kernan notes that Mets’ officials consistently praise Reynolds’ focus and determination, and the .343/.405/.454 batting line he compiled between Double-A and Triple-A in 2014 doesn’t do anything to hurt his chances, of course. Reynolds says he is close with Wilmer Flores and hopes to see Flores succeed, adding that the situation “will play itself out.” Reynolds also spoke glowingly of the benefit he’s received from David Wright’s down-to-Earth nature and willingness to share his wisdom as he’s risen through the ranks. Flores is expected to open the season at shortstop for the Mets, but Reynolds could challenge for time if Flores struggles.
- The lofty goals publicly expressed by several members of the Mets organization could have harsh ramifications among the fan base should the team struggle, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Matt Harvey is the latest to join the big talk — telling reporters over the weekend (in unprompted fashion) that it was “very realistic” that the team could find itself in the World Series. That the Mets’ offseason has been largely uneventful aside from the addition of Michael Cuddyer is a well-documented fact, and I’d imagine the quiet offseason could expedite a negative reaction to stated expectations should the team struggle in the early-going.