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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