That’s a spicy headline, isn’t it? Well, those are the words of one general manager according to Peter Gammons’ latest piece at The Athletic. Depending on where you sit, the words “The price for Tanner Roark is untouchable” can be both good or bad.
The “Go for it!” Crowd
If you find yourself in the “go for it” crowd, then the idea that Tanner Roark is likely sticking around is good. The pitching of Roark isn’t sexy. The numbers don’t blow you away. But he’s good, and the numbers have been, too. His ERA is 3.95 on the season, with an ERA+ of 115. He’s thrown 107.0 innings, allowed 14 home runs, walked 34 batters, and he’s racked up 106 strikeouts. Very little in his stats suggest that his ERA is a lie and he’s due for some serious correction.
Tanner Roark makes the Reds better in 2019 from today through the end of the season. He’s a better starting pitcher than anyone they would replace him with right now if he were traded away. He’ll help the Reds win more games in August and September than the other option. And if you are on board for “win as many games as possible in 2019 and figure out the future later”, then those words from an anonymous general manager work for you.
The “Trade any free agent!” Crowd
If you believe there’s little point in the Reds trying to win as many games this year as they can, those words don’t sound so great. Cincinnati is currently 49-55 and they are 6.5 games out of a playoff spot. It’s going to take a whole lot of winning like they haven’t shown any ability to do this season the rest of the way in order to make the playoffs.
Believers that Fangraphs has it right, and the Reds only have a 4.8% chance of making the playoffs want to see the Reds plan for the future. Tanner Roark, among a few other players, aren’t likely a part of that due to their free agency status. Getting something, anything for them, seems better than keeping them around to win 77 games and letting them walk away for nothing.
The “Trade him if the value is there” Crowd
Then there is the crowd that would be fine with both scenarios. There’s some value in actually winning baseball games in August and September, even if the team isn’t going to go on a run of .650 baseball and make the playoffs. Cincinnati has lost 90+ games for four straight seasons. Losing eats away at a fan base. The offseason saw the Reds try to make moves for winning. And at least on television and at the gate, fans still seem to be happy with that plan. People are still tuning in on Fox Sports Ohio to watch the games in high numbers. And attendance is up, up from 2018 more than most teams around the league. At the same time, if someone is going to overpay for the Tanner Roark’s of the world, let them.
Talking it out
There’s more than one way to get things done. In the end, everyone wants the Reds to get better. In some circles that means winning now, selling more tickets (both now and in the future, as winning improves future ticket sales – though this is a long term play as it takes years of winning to make this effective), making more money and then spending that. Within other circles it means cashing in your soon-to-be-gone assets now and trying to “get what you can”. Some are more split, willing to stand pat and try to win some games now unless someone is willing to pay more for your assets than they are worth.
We’re going to find out in the next two days where the Cincinnati Reds front office sits. Dick Williams, the Reds President of Baseball Operations has said that they aren’t just going to trade guys away to save money. Before they came out of the All-Star break and went 3-7, there was talk that they were looking to be buyers. That seemed to change, at least in the non-team stated rumors, to being buyers for players who could help in 2019 and beyond – not just in 2019.
The Reds have impending free agent pitchers Alex Wood, Tanner Roark, Jared Hughes (team option for 2020), and David Hernandez (injured list – can’t be traded unless activated). They also have impending free agent position players in Scooter Gennett and Yasiel Puig. There have also been rumors that the team has been willing to listen on offers for relievers Raisel Iglesias and Amir Garrett.
There is no longer a “waiver period” trade deadline at the end of August. Wednesday at 4pm ET is the trade deadline for players on the 40-man roster. That means there’s 29 hours before trades can no longer take place. The Reds have some real decisions to make, both for 2019 and for the future. Get out your phone and set an alarm. You get to voice your opinion on what the franchise did, or didn’t do, very shortly.