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More thoughts from the Nats' wild win

More thoughts from the Nats' wild win

Some leftover thoughts from last night's remarkable ballgame, now that I've had a chance to get some rest and come back with a clear mind...

-- Everyone's been trying to figure out what Dan Uggla's thought process was on the final play of the game, and what he should have done differently. It was a big topic of discussion inside the Nationals' clubhouse as well.

Did the Braves second baseman have a shot at an inning-ending double play? And if so, was his best chance to tag Kurt Suzuki and then throw to first or throw to second base and have Paul Janish complete the standard 4-6-3 twin-killing? Or should he have simply given up on the idea and just thrown to the plate to get Danny Espinosa?

Here's what Espinosa (a second baseman himself, obviously) said when I asked him if he empathized with Uggla on a play like that: "Yeah, I do. Because when you're playing infield in like that and it's a hot shot and you maybe don't field it cleanly or whatever, then you're immediately thinking the ball got to you so quick you might have a chance for a double play. I'm sure that's what he thought. But that's a tough play. He hits the ball hard. He dives, makes a good play to keep the ball in the infield."

In the end, Uggla still believed the double play was his best option.

"If I had to do it over, I'd have jumped up and found Kurt and tagged him and ran and touched first," he told Atlanta reporters.

-- You may have already gone to bed by the time it was announced, but there was a scoring change on that final play. It was originally ruled an error on Uggla, but about 15 minutes later, the scorer changed the call to a base hit and an RBI for Tracy.

You can debate whether that was the right call or not -- personally, I think the whole thing should have just been scored a fielder's choice, because clearly Uggla was trying to decide which choice made the most sense for him in that moment -- but it's notable that by crediting Tracy with a hit, he's now got 10 pinch-hit RBI this season. That ranks second in the majors only to the Padres' Jesus Guzman (who has 11). Pretty remarkable when you consider Tracy missed two months following sports hernia surgery.

-- Jayson Werth had an eventful night in the field, including a couple of hold-your-breath moments during the top of the fifth. He had to come charging in to make a sliding catch of Michael Bourn's sinking liner, a play that looked awfully similar to the one in which he broke his left wrist back on May 6.

Four batters later, Werth got that same wrist caught in the chain-link fence that covers the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center and appeared to be in some pain.

"Just kind of jammed it into the fence," he said. "It's no big deal."

As for what he was thinking as he made the familiar-looking, sliding catch: "That was the first play I've had since I broke my wrist," he said. "Definitely was not really thinking about it, but was glad everything went well."

Werth explained that last night's play wasn't exactly like the one from May 6.

"It's a little bit different," he said. "The play that I broke it on was more of a line drive. That ball last night was coming straight down. But still, that's going to my left and sliding like that ... it's a play that I've made who knows how many times in my life. But unfortunately that one time it didn't work out so well."

-- Davey Johnson was asked who he'll have available out of his maxed-out bullpen for tonight's game. He insisted just about everyone (except for probably Craig Stammen) should be good to go, especially because the other guys all pitched only one inning.

Besides, Johnson sounded hopeful he wouldn't need any relievers all for this game.

"I'm going to go 9 with Stras anyway," he joked.

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Tanner Roark is out, who could be in?

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Tanner Roark is out, who could be in?

LAS VEGAS -- Let’s strip the name and take a blank taste test. Wednesday, the Nationals sent an average of 197 innings out the door. That’s 591 outs. It’s not something to shrug off.

Trading Tanner Roark for a reliever, a minor-league one at that, extracts a path to almost 600 outs. The Nationals need to find a new one. Choices to do so aren’t very enticing.

They are back in the starting pitching market because of Roark’s regression the last two seasons coupling with an increase in pay. He’s expected to earn around $10 million out of salary arbitration. The Nationals are gambling they can find equal effectiveness through another starter -- or two.

There’s money to allocate now. It’s not much for the remaining upper tier of free agents. It’s sufficient to bring in someone on a one- or two-year deal and perhaps apply to a more versatile bench piece than a straight backup at first base.

Washington made Patrick Corbin the highest-paid pitcher this offseason. He was priority one. In a vacuum, he may not be worth six years and $140 million. But not all players carry the same value with every franchise. The Nationals had a clear need for another potent starter, and preferably a left-handed one at that. They received the combination with Corbin.

The challenge for the Nationals is handling this market after Charlie Morton and Lance Lynn complicated it. Morton signed a two-year, $30 million deal with Tampa Bay. Lynn received a three-year, $30 million contract from the Texas Rangers. If the Nationals didn’t want to pay Roark $10 million, they surely don’t want to pay another pitcher something near what Morton and Lynn received, even if it allows more control. Roark was entering the last year of his contract.

Dallas Keuchel remains atop the available starters. By WAR, the next-best available pitcher is 34-year-old Anibal Sanchez. He put together what appears to be an outlier season in 2018 following three consecutive years of significant regression. Sanchez’s ERA-plus went 80, 73, 70 before spiking to 143 last season, the third-best mark of his 13-year career. Sanchez has also averaged just 138 innings pitched on average the last four years. That’s a lot of outs between the workload Roark handled and Sanchez has as he heads into his age-35 season.

Next on the list by WAR? Gio Gonzalez. Moving on.

After that? Not much inspiration. Left-hander Wade Miley pitched well in just 16 starts last season. He has a carer 4.26 ERA. Miley has not put together a strong full season since 2013.

Matt Harvey? Trevor Cahill? Clay Buchholz?

Brett Anderson? James Shields? Jason Hammel?

These are not exactly places to hang your hat.

However, the Nationals have little choice. Their solution to replace Roark’s outs will come from outside the organization. Depth at Triple-A Fresno is negligible. Options in Double-A to help the rotation now are non-existent.

They have one intriguing pitcher lurking: Henderson Alvarez. The Nationals signed him to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.

“Chance to make the team, if not, to pitch in Triple A for us,” Mike Rizzo said of his outlook on Alvarez.

Alvarez threw a no-hitter in 2013. He was an All-Star in 2014. Shoulder surgery was followed by shoulder discomfort, then another shoulder surgery. Alvarez didn’t pitch in 2016. He started three games for Philadelphia in 2017. He then pitched in the Mexican League in 2018, where he finished with 4.60 ERA in nine starts. The wildest of wild cards here.

Washington has also kept an eye on Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, who is available through posting system.

Somewhere, they need to find another 180 innings.

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Five things to know about new Nationals prospect Tanner Rainey

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Five things to know about new Nationals prospect Tanner Rainey

In what may be a Major League Baseball first, two players named Tanner R. were traded for each other Wednesday at the Winter Meetings.

It’s a fun (unconfirmed) fact, but what really makes it interesting for Nationals fans is the fact that one of the Tanners’ last name is Roark, which means Washington now has a hole to fill in their rotation. They’ve already added Patrick Corbin, but expect the team to search for other options now.

Roark had been a staple in the Nats rotation for the last few years, and often provided a steadying presence at the back end of the rotation. He was never as talented or awe-inspiring as Max Scherzer or Stephen Strasburg, but he never needed to be.

Let’s focus on the newest addition to the organization though: the one named Rainey.

Here are five things to know about Tanner Rainey.

1. He went to two small schools, but still has pedigree

Rainey was born in Louisiana, and played collegiate ball at Southeastern Louisiana University and the University of West Alabama.

He was both a first baseman and a pitcher, but was drafted as a pitcher in the second round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the Cincinnati Reds.

2.  His career got off on the wrong foot

Rainey made his Major League debut in April 2018, and it could have gone better. He allowed a grand slam to Scott Kingery of the Phillies, and he finished the season with a 24.43 ERA.

Of course, the caveat is sample size. He pitched just seven innings at the big league level in 2018, and while he struck out an impressive seven batters in those innings, his WAR was -1.0.

3. He was born on Christmas Day

This, of course, allows for many fun puns, especially considering he once played for the Reds. Rudolph The Red(s)-Nosed Rainey-deer? Okay, we’ll try to come up with something better.

The Christmas Day he was born on was in 1992, so he’ll be 26 in a few weeks. It’s a little old for someone without much Major League experience, but he’s got some arm talent, and relievers regularly develop into reliable options later in their careers.

4. He has an electric arm

Rainey may struggle with command at this point in his career, but he can really whip a fastball.

While we live in the era of velocity and relievers boasting ridiculous radar gun totals seemingly every day, it’s interesting to note that 100 mph is still an impressive mark to reach. As Simon mentions, only 36 pitchers hit triple digits in 2018, and Rainey was one of them. That’s something any bullpen can use.

When taking a chance on unproven minor leaguers, you might as well take a chance on somebody with a very valuable, very elite skill.

5. He may never end up working out, but that doesn't mean it was a bad trade if he doesn't

Most minor leaguers don’t pan out. The fact that Rainey has thrown a pitch in the Majors makes his career more impressive than millions of players before him. He was ranked in the top 30 (no. 23 to be exact) of the Reds’ prospects according to MLB Pipeline, so he’s clearly talented enough for the Nats to think they can tap into his potential.

If it doesn't happen, however, losing Roark won’t be the difference for this roster in competing or not. With the rotation they have, even as top-heavy as it looks, they can certainly still compete in the division, and if it works out, they’ve acquired a dynamic piece for the back end of the bullpen.

You have to give up something to get something, and this trade could end up looking good for both teams down the road. If the Nats were set on moving Roark, which it appears they were, they could have done worse than a hard-throwing reliever in an era when hard-throwing relievers are more coveted than ever before.

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