Cubs “leaning toward” using Carlos Villanueva as reliever

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When the Cubs signed Carlos Villanueva to a two-year, $10 million deal in December it was assumed that he’d be in the starting rotation, but now Carrie Muskat of MLB.com writes that they “seem to be leaning toward using Villanueva out of the bullpen.”

Villanueva said all the right things about filling whatever role is asked of him, but did tell Muskat: “I’m a starter and I’ve always seen myself as a starter.”

Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson, Jeff Samardzija, and Scott Feldman are locked in as starters, so Villanueva’s chances of joining them in the rotation depend mostly on Scott Baker’s recovery from elbow surgery and partly on how impressive Travis Wood looks in camp.

Reds acquire Tanner Roark from Nationals

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The Reds announced on Wednesday evening that the club acquired starter Tanner Roark from the Nationals in exchange for pitcher Tanner Rainey.

Roark, 32, is entering his third of three years of arbitration eligibility, so this is essentially a rental for the Reds. This past season, Roark posted a 4.34 ERA with 146 strikeouts and 50 walks over 180 1/3 innings. He had a career year in 2016, finishing with a 2.83 ERA, but hasn’t been able to replicate it in the two years since.

Rainey, 25, accrued just seven innings in the majors last season, yielding 19 runs (all earned) on 13 hits and 12 walks with seven strikeouts. He spent most of his year with Triple-A Louisville where his numbers were much better: he had a 2.65 ERA with 65 strikeouts and 35 walks in 51 innings of relief.

The Reds have been in the mix in a lot of rumors during the winter meetings, so it’s not a surprise to see them make a splash. The club is trying to improve on last year’s dismal 67-95 finish.