The Scott Rintoul Show
Shi Davidi discusses the Blue Jays off-season so far
December 18 2019
TORONTO – Tanner Roark played on five different minor-league teams across two different organizations, along with an independent and a winter ball club, before debuting with the Washington Nationals on Aug. 7, 2013. Five years of reliability for the Nationals followed before a two-stop year with the Cincinnati Reds and Oakland Athletics set him up for free agency.
Able to pick his next destination for the first time, the 33-year-old right-hander from Wilmington, Ill., wanted some stability and some good catchers to work with, finding both with the Toronto Blue Jays, who formally announced his $24-million, two-year deal Wednesday.
The way they pursued him helped tip the scales, he said during a conference call with media.
“They were the first ones to initiate contact with me. Right off the bat, they were really interested. So I knew that they wanted me and I talked to the pitching coach, Pete (Walker), and the bullpen coach, Matt Buschmann, we had a great conversation. Talked to Walker for like 25 minutes, that’s the first time I’ve ever talked to him,” said Roark. “They knew what they wanted and they wanted me and it’s exciting to have someone want you like that.”
Roark joins trade acquisition Chase Anderson as a stability post in a Blue Jays rotation that, at minimum, will feature legitimate major-league pitching after a miserable 2019 season best encapsulated by Charlie Montoyo’s memorable description of an opener and a guy ahead of one of many TBA days.
Japanese righty Shun Yamaguchi, who agreed to a two-year deal worth slightly more than six million with the potential for up in excess of a million more per season in incentives, is another possibility to start, although he could potentially be used as an opener, bulk-pitcher or leverage reliever, too.
Along with incumbent rotation candidates Matt Shoemaker, Trent Thornton and Ryan Borucki, the Blue Jays should now be able to give their young core of position players a chance in most games.
They continue to seek higher-end impact for the rotation – the bidding for Hyun-Jin Ryu, believed to be pushing past $80 million over four years, may end up outside their comfort level – and an internal debate now is whether to bite the bullet now, or wait for a shot at Trevor Bauer or James Paxton in free agency next fall.
David Price is one possibility on the trade market right now, while underperforming teams looking to escape big contracts may present a fresh set of options ahead of the next July 31 trade deadline, too.
Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.
Roark’s steadiness opens up all kinds of possibilities for the Blue Jays, who in addition to wanting to present a more watchable product on the field, also sought to protect their young arms from overexposure. He’s made at least 30 starts and logged a minimum of 165.1 innings in five of the past six years, and having him take the ball every five days should make Montoyo’s life easier.
The dependability that has become his calling card is no accident.
“I think what keeps me on the field is I work hard,” said Roark. “It can be a long, arduous season, repetitive, travel-wise, all that stuff, and the mental part of it can just crush you. 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 and the fifth day is the actual enjoyment of it all, of what all the work that you put in those previous four days rewards you with, the start to go out there and hopefully kick some butt.”
The Scott Rintoul Show
Shi Davidi discusses the Blue Jays off-season so far
December 18 2019
Doing it in the American League East will present a new challenge, one Roark both embraced and played down, saying, “keep the ball out of the air I guess is the big thing – because often they go out for a home run.”
“Just make your pitches.”
That’s a pretty sound mantra for any division and his experience and path to the majors should serve both him and his young teammates well. Roark joked about being one of the oldest players on the roster now, but he’s eager to share his knowledge when called for.
“I was a late bloomer of some excitement, some five and a half years in the minor-leagues, and the biggest thing was the mental part,” he said. “I knew I could always make it to the big leagues and be a big-leaguer and having the underdog mentality I’ve had my whole entire career – underrated, not getting the most respect – has made me mentally tougher and stronger. Going through tough times is what got me to armour my mind to get through big situations and not let the name on the back of the jersey or the front of the jersey bother me or get in my head. …
“Especially with the young core group of guys coming up and what we have at the big-league level, give them some knowledge, teach them some things, answer any questions that they want to know,” Roark added later. “I’m here for them.”
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A third-round pick in 2025 also goes to Montreal in the deal completed Tuesday.
Pearson hasn’t played since suffering a broken hand last November during a game in Montreal.
Pearson, 31, had one goal and four assists in 14 games last season.
In 590 career games with the Canucks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings, Pearson has 133 goals and 139 assists for 272 points.
The Kings picked the Barrie Colts product in the first round (30th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft.
Pearson is in the final year of a three-year contract with a cap hit of $3.25 million.
DeSmith, 32, has been with the Pittsburgh Penguins since 2017-18. He was acquired by the Canadians in a three-team deal also involving the San Jose Sharks last month.
DeSmith was 15-16-4 with a 3.17 goals-against average and .905 save percentage last season.
In 134 career games, the undrafted DeSmith is 58-44-15 with a 2.81 GAA and .912 save percentage.
DeSmith is on the final year of a two-year deal with a cap hit of $1.8 million.
Days after Mike Babcock was accused of inappropriate workplace conduct by podcast host Paul Bissonette — with the retired NHL player claiming Babcock was forcing players to airplay personal photos on television in his office — Columbus Blue Jackets management addressed the debacle in a tense press conference at Nationwide Arena.
“It’s on us. It’s on me…. Sometimes you flat-out make a mistake. We made a mistake,” said Blue Jackets president of hockey ops John Davidson, per Associated Press reporter Stephen Whyno.
“Maybe they were right,” Davidson said of people who were critical of Mike Babcock’s hiring in the first place.
Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen, meanwhile. said he apologized to Blue Jackets players this morning for hiring the embattled head coach.
“I believe that Mike Babcock deserved another opportunity to coach,” Kekalainen said. “Obviously that was a mistake and that responsibility’s mine.”
Still, even with the talk of accountability, Kekalainen detailed what should’ve been a red flag: Babcock apparently pulled the same phone stunt he was accused of pulling with his players on the 57-year-old executive.
GM Jarmo Kekalainen said Mike Babcock did the phone thing with him as well. “Personally I had no problem with it but I can see how it might put someone in an uncomfortable situation.”
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) September 18, 2023
But while Kekalainen stated he doesn’t believe there was any ill intent behind Babcock’s actions, he admitted that some of his players were not comfortable with his methods and that was concerning.
Blue Jackets majority owner John H. McConnell announced in a team-issued statement Monday morning that he does not anticipate further changes to the team’s leadership, erasing speculation that one or both of Kekalainen and Davidson would end up on the chopping block alongside Babcock.
“Additional disruptions would be detrimental to our players and coaches as they prepare for the opening of training camp in two days,” McConnell’s statement read.
To say this story escalated rapidly would be the understatement of the century. Initially, it seemed like it would die quickly after both Babcock and captain Boone Jenner released statements through the team on Wednesday morning refuting the Spittin’ Chiclets host’s version of events.
Both Columbus’ captain and the now-former coach described their encounter as nothing more than a way of sharing snippets of one another’s life in an effort to build a working relationship. During an appearance on the 32 Thoughts Podcast on the same day as Jenner and Babcock condemned Bissonette’s comments, Blue Jackets star winger Johnny Gaudreau gave a similar account to Jenner when asked about his photo-exchange meet-and-greet with Babcock.
But the story didn’t end there, obviously, with Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reporting things changed on Wednesday night when the NHLPA received information that some of the younger Blue Jackets players were uncomfortable with their interactions with Babcock.
Friedman later reported that the information gathered on Wednesday night prompted NHLPA executive director Marty Walsh and assistant executive director Ron Hainsey to begin an investigation before flying out to Columbus and leading what was described as an “intense” meeting.
On Friday, Walsh and Hainsey relayed their findings during a joint meeting with the NHL and NHLPA. Saturday was arguably the quietest day of the scandal in the public eye, according to ESPN’s Greg Wyshinski, because that’s the day Columbus and Babcock started plotting his exit.
By Sunday, the Blue Jackets announced that Babcock had resigned and Pascal Vincent would be taking over as the team’s head coach.
Vincent, 51, had served as the Blue Jackets’ associate coach since the 2021-22 season. Before joining Columbus, Vincent spent 10 seasons with the Winnipeg Jets organization, serving as an NHL assistant for the first half of his tenure before pivoting to head coach of the organization’s AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose. Vincent was named AHL Coach Of The Year for the 2017-18 season.
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