Tanner Roark Rumors

Nationals Notes: Desmond, Werth, Roark, Espinosa, Burriss

The Nationals and shortstop Ian Desmond have not discussed a contract extension, tweets William Ladson of MLB.com. Desmond is a free agent after this season. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes ranked Desmond the fourth best impending free agent. Dierkes believes he could exceed a $200MM guarantee with another strong season. Desmond declined a seven-year, $107MM extension offer prior to the 2014 season.

  • GM Mike Rizzo expects Jayson Werth to be ready in time for the season opener, writes Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. Werth’s availability could influence if the club pursues another outfielder. The club has a few internal options who can work as stop gaps including Nate McLouth, Kevin Frandsen, and prospect Michael Taylor.
  • Tanner Roark appears to be the odd man out in the rotation, writes James Wagner of the Washington Post. He’ll continue to prepare as a starter until later in the spring. If the club opts to use him in the bullpen, they believe his stuff could play up. Some pitchers experience a burst of velocity while working in short relief.
  • Switch-hitter Danny Espinosa may have taken his last hacks from the left-hand batters box, reports Ladson. The utility infielder plans to become a purely right-handed hitter. He’ll spend much of spring training working to hit right-handed breaking balls. Espinosa has substantial career splits, including a weak .213/.284/.362 line batting left-handed. Against southpaws, he’s managed a stout .271/.343/.460 line. While he’s unlikely to match the better rates against same-handed pitchers, there is some hope he can improve.
  • Utility infielder Emmanuel Burriss is competing for a bench role, writes Ladson. The 30-year-old is coming off a possible breakout season at Triple-A where he hit .300/.377/.412 with more walks than strikeouts. The switch-hitter spent parts of five seasons with the Giants, hitting .243/.304/.269 in 801 plate appearances. He’s spent the last two seasons in the minors.

NL Notes: Cole, Roark, Phillies

Pirates ace Gerrit Cole has landed on the disabled list with shoulder fatigue, but the team doesn’t believe the shoulder has any structural damage, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. That could be great news for the Bucs, who will need Cole if they hope to make noise in the playoff race this summer. The injury, which came to light almost three years to the day after Cole was selected first overall in the 2011 draft, is a reminder of the uncertainty of drafting pitchers in a season that’s been full of such reminders. Here are more notes from around the National League.

  • The career trajectory of Tanner Roark of the Nationals is perhaps a more pleasant story about the uncertainty of pitching — the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore describes Roark as “a potential rotation piece that fell out of the sky.” The Rangers drafted Roark in the 25th round in 2008, then shipped him to Washington with another minor-leaguer for Cristian Guzman in 2010. Even in 2013, the Nationals used him as a reliever in Triple-A. But he pitched brilliantly down the stretch for the Nats in 2013 and has been nearly as good this season, posting a 2.91 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 as a key part of Washington’s rotation.
  • Chase Utley of the Phillies tops the list of the best bats who might be available in trade this summer, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. It’s unclear whether the Phillies will commit to trading veterans, but even if they do, some of them (like Ryan Howard and Cliff Lee) would be difficult to trade anyway. Utley, who is signed to a reasonable contract and is still very productive, is a different story. Utley has the right to veto any trade, however, since he has 10-and-5 rights, and the Phillies have shown no interest in trading Utley.

NL Notes: Roark, Weeks, Gregorius, Marlins, Mets, Cards

The Nationals‘ unheralded acquisition of current fifth starter Tanner Roark represents a “triumph of scouting,” writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. With the Nats looking to dump the salary of Christian Guzman back in 2010, the team identified the little-known Roark as a potentially useful arm and picked him up along with righty Ryan Tatusko. While Roark was the real prize of that swap, GM Mike Rizzo says that Tatusko (who owns a 2.15 ERA through seven starts at Triple-A) could reach the bigs himself “somehow, somewhere, with somebody.”

Here’s more out of Washington and the rest of the National League:

  • Much-maligned Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks has been reasonably productive this year, and could potentially be dealt if Milwaukee can find an interested partner, writes Rosenthal. The 31-year-old, who is earning $11MM this year before he reaches the open market, has a .318/.375/.364 line through just 48 plate appearances. Somewhat curiously, and counter to his career tendencies, the right-handed hitter has been knocking around same-handed hurlers (.954 OPS) while struggling against southpaws (.541) in an approximately even number of appearances against pitchers of both sides. Rosenthal mentions the Cardinals and Orioles as possible matches, though the former seems unlikely with Milwaukee leading the division. (Of course, Baltimore already owns the rights to Weeks’s younger brother, fellow second bagger Jemile Weeks.)
  • The Diamondbacks are still in no rush to deal shortstop Didi Gregorius, who is spending some time at second while fellow middle infield prospect Nick Ahmed sees time at short. Rosenthal notes that the team is unlikely to field a double-play combination of Gregorius and Chris Owings unless it saw fit to deal keystone stalwart Aaron Hill, who earns $12MM both this year and next.
  • There is little doubt of the biggest story in baseball right now: the UCL tear of Marlins‘ young ace Jose Fernandez. With the club still in the thick of things in the NL East, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro suggests that Miami should consider a bold move: a trade for Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs. While top prospect Andrew Heaney offers some hope of filling Fernandez’s shoes (to the extent that is possible), Frisaro says that Samardzija “could save the season” for the Fish. Of course, acquiring him could well require parting with Heaney — if not more, if the Cubs’ ace continues his current dominance. Samardzija comes with another year of control after the present, though he’ll be fairly expensive after earning $5.345MM in his second trip through arbitration.
  • While weighing a call-up of Heaney, if not a more drastic move, the Marlins will promote Anthony DeSclafani for his first big league action, tweets Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel. Baseball America tabbed DeSclafani as the team’s fifth-best prospect coming into the season, saying that the 24-year-old (who came over in the infamous Blue Jays trade) could top out as a number three starter or back-end reliever.
  • Whatever the intentions of Mets‘ co-owner Saul Katz, any sale of his portion of the team’s equity is not likely to change the control of the club, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Heyman walks through the reasons that, even if Katz looks to move some or all of his shares, the Wilpon family is quite likely to stay in charge in New York.
  • Cardinals GM John Mozeliak acknowledges that he finds the club’s middling start “concerning,” reports MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch. While the team has plenty of internal possibilities to shake things up, Mozeliak says that he does not intend to just go with what he has if the situation warrants change. “I can’t imagine us just doing nothing all season and just say our strategy is you’re going to rise up to your mean,” said Mozeliak, who said the club’s 19-20 record may actually be an over-achievement at this point. “For us, there are some things we want to be sensitive to. The month of July is an opportunity to maybe change the look of your club if you have to. The clock’s ticking, but it’s not in a panic mode or a reactionary place where you have to just do something to do something. I think people have to be aware that this is not acceptable baseball at this point.”