Roark ready to 'kick some butt' with Blue Jays

December 18th, 2019

TORONTO -- Tanner Roark’s first taste of free agency couldn’t have gone better.

The Blue Jays made the acquisition of the 33-year-old right-hander on a two-year deal worth $24 million official on Wednesday. Toronto was the first club that reached out to Roark as he entered the process, and the one that came away with a new addition to its rotation.

“They knew what they wanted and they wanted me,” Roark said in a conference call on Wednesday. “And it was exciting to have someone want you like that. This is my first time through free agency, so it’s pretty exciting and I’m excited.”

Roark had been a target for the Blue Jays throughout the free-agent process because of his durability and reliability, something the club covets after a season that saw them roll out 21 starters, including plenty of young rookies and openers. Roark, 33, has made 30 or more starts in each of the past four seasons, posting a 3.99 ERA over that span.

“What keeps me on the field is I work hard,” Roark said. “It can be a long, arduous season, repetitive travel-wise, the mental part of it can just crush you, but working hard and doing what you need to do to prepare yourself for every fifth day, that’s the biggest thing. The stuff in between the starts is the real work. The fifth day is the actual enjoyment of it all, of all the work that you put in those previous four days and then you’re rewarded with the start, to go out there and hopefully kick some butt.”

After spending the first six seasons of his MLB career with the Nationals, Roark was traded to the Reds in December 2018. He made 21 starts for Cincinnati in ’19 and was later dealt to the A's at the July 31 Trade Deadline, where he made 10 starts down the stretch. He has three career playoff appearances under his belt, all for the Nationals.

"It's not that we went into this free-agent season, or this offseason, thinking that we have to get guys who have only been durable, but that is a very important piece to the equation in almost every starting pitching category," general manager Ross Atkins said at the Winter Meetings in San Diego.

Roark’s signing represents an official first step for the Blue Jays, who also have an agreement in place with Japanese right-hander Shun Yamaguchi, a source told on Tuesday. More holes could be addressed ahead of Spring Training, though the group of young starters, including No. 1 prospect Nate Pearson (No. 10 prospect in MLB), could be part of the solution.

Roark joins a Blue Jays rotation with Chase Anderson, who was acquired via trade earlier this offseason from the Brewers. Veteran Matt Shoemaker has an inside track on a rotation spot and Trent Thornton earned the same with a full 2019 in the Blue Jays' rotation, but plenty of opportunity remains for their internal options and external candidates.

"We're thinking about adding to our pitching, adding to our depth. We'll continue to do that," Atkins said. "There seems to be opportunity at different areas of the market. There's trade opportunities, there's free-agent opportunities."