The Cincinnati Reds are only 4.5 games out of first place in the NL Central, the league’s weakest division. They have a young lineup and the third-best pitching staff in the National League, according to fWAR. There’s a chance they won’t be sellers on the trade market this season, but they are still a last place team even if their run differential suggests otherwise. If they don’t have a strong start to the second half, they could look to deal some of their talent.
Yankee fans will undoubtedly be most interested in Luis Castillo or Raisel Iglesias, but they’ll likely come with a large price tag. If the Yankees aren’t comfortable shipping their prospects off for a big-time pitcher, they could look for a cheap alternative in Tanner Roark.
Roark is in his seventh year in the big leagues, is 32-years-old, and most importantly, is amidst a one-year, $10 million deal. If Cashman targets Roark, the Yankees would be on the hook for a little less than half that figure, which certainly won’t hurt the checkbook.
The Yankees could target Roark simply because some statistics indicate he’s having one of the best seasons of his career. His 3.51 ERA and 3.85 FIP are the best figures he has posted since 2016. To round things out, he has only allowed 1.0 HR/9, and his 3.06 K/BB ratio is the highest it’s been since 2014.
At the midway point this season, Roark’s ERA+ sits at a comfortably-above-average 132 and he’s accumulated an fWAR of 1.9. He’s essentially guaranteed to surpass his 2.0 mark from last season, and it isn’t inconceivable to think he could at least match his career-high 3.3 mark set in 2016. With these statistics in mind, Roark might seem like a good add. However, there are definitely some red flags in his profile.
Most concerning is his batted ball profile. His groundball rate is 35.7%, which is way down from his career average of 46.6%. His 2019 groundball rate is the lowest mark of his career and would also be lowest among all Yankee starters. Instead of generating groundballs, Roark is giving up a ton of line drives. His line drive rate is 31.6%, a career-worst and well above the MLB average of 25.5%. Domingo German gives up the most line drives of any Yankee starter at 22.8%.
Given Roark’s penchant for limiting groundballs and allowing line drives in 2019, it should come as no surprise that it’s also been a bad year for his Barrel%, Exit Velocity, Hard Hit%, and Launch Angle, which are all at career-worst levels.
Those figures haven’t stopped Roark from having success this year. He’s striking out more hitters than ever before, and his home run rate is comfortably above average during this historic power year. Hitters have a .249/.321/.395 slash line against Roark, but based on the quality of contact he surrenders, Statcast pegs his xBA at .265 and his xSLG .426. There’s definitely a chance Roark can outperform these statistics for the rest of the season, but a significant backslide could happen at any moment.
Tanner Roark likely isn’t and shouldn’t be one of the Yankees’ top choices at the deadline this year, but Brian Cashman has made moves for similar pitchers in the past. The Yankees did trade for Jaime Garcia and Lance Lynn the past two seasons after all. Neither pitcher was a top-of-the-rotation arm to be sure. Still, trading for them didn’t cost the team much, and they didn’t have to rely on either arm too heavily down the stretch. Trading for Tanner Roark is definitely a risk, considering his Statcast profile, but he could serve a purpose in the second half, especially if the Yankees miss out on a big-time pitcher.