Rays send Lobaton, 2 others to Nats for RHP Karns
UPDATE, 5:20: Rays exec VP Andrew Friedman made it very clear how much they think of Karns in being willing to give up three players for him: "We feel like he's got a chance to be a really good major-league starting pitcher.''
Friedman said Karns is big, strong, durable and talented, with a plus fastball and breaking ball and a vastly improved changeup.
He said the Rays were willing to bring Lobaton to camp if there was no deal, but it was not ideal, and that it would have been a distraction for the team and Lobaton.
Lobaton posted a farewell message on his Twitter account:
"Rays fans: It is very difficult to say Goodbye to all of you since you were always very supportive of me....Will always cherish that. Thanks for everything.''
Friedman said the Rays may have another addition or two to the spring roster, currently at 63 (and with an open spot on the 40-man roster), as they are always looking for more depth. There has been some talk with free-agent LHP Erik Bedard, who could be signed to a minor-league deal.
UPDATE, 1:51: The teams have now annouced the deal.
The Rays paid what looks to be a lefty sum for Karns. Vettleson was a first-round compensation pick in 2010 who hit .274 with 4 homers and 62 RBIs for advanced Class A Charlotte last year while Rivero was 9-7, 3.40 in making 23 starts.
Here is a quick bio on Karns as compiled by the Rays:
"Karns, 26, spent the majority of the 2013 season with Double-A Harrisburg, going 10-6 with a 3.26 ERA (132.2-IP, 48-ER) and 155 strikeouts in 23 starts. He ranked among Nationals minor league leaders in wins (10, tied for fourth), strikeouts (155, second) and ERA (3.26, fourth). Karns also made three starts with the Nationals, including his major league debut on May 28 vs. Baltimore. Following the season, he was ranked by ESPN.com's Keith Law as the No. 4 prospect in the Nationals system, and by Baseball America as the organization's No. 9 prospect.
Over three minor league seasons, Karns is 24-12 with a 2.66 ERA (304-IP, 90-ER) in 60 games (54 starts). He has averaged 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings pitched and opponents have hit only .194 against him. He was named the Nationals Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2012, going 11-4 with an organizational-best 2.17 ERA (116-IP, 28-ER) and 148 strikeouts in 24 games (18 starts) between Class-A Potomac and Class-A Hagerstown. A 12th-round selection in the 2009 June Draft out of Texas Tech University, he did not pitch professionally until 2011 due to right shoulder surgery."
UPDATE, 1:47: The third player going from the Rays to the Nats is OF Drew Vettleson.
UPDATE, 1:16: Karns talked to reporters before leaving the Nats camp to head to Port Charlotte:
"You know, it's new. I don't really know how to process it yet," he said. "It just kind of fell into my lap this morning. I just talked to (Nats GM Mike) Rizzo, had a great conversation. I'm on good feelings with it. It's a new opportunity. Not everybody gets to stay in the same organization their whole career. Maybe in the future I'll be back. And if not, I had a great time here. I have nothing but great things to say about it. ...
"I look at it as, Rizzo told me the deal, he just couldn't pass up on it. I can understand that from a business point. He has a job to do. I have a job to do. There's no bad feelings. It's just business. ... I'm still trying to swallow the whole pill right now. It'll probably hit me as I leave this complex, but I'm happy with all the time I've had here since 2009. Now, on to the next."
UPDATE, 12:19: LHP Felipe Rivero is also going to the Nats, which opens a 40-man roster spot. Karns will wear No. 51.
DEVELOPING: The Rays have completed a four-player trade that sends extra catcher Jose Lobaton and two others (likely minor leaguers) to the Nationals for RHP Nate Karns, the Times has learned.
Karns is 26, having made three starts last year for the Nats (0-1, 7.50) while doing 10-6, 3.26 at AA Harrisburg. He was a 12th-round pick in 2009 out of Texas Tech.
Karns is ranked the Nationals 9th best prospect by Baseball America.
Lobaton started 76 games for the Rays last season, but became expendable when they re-signed veteran Jose Molina and traded for Ryan Hanigan. Since he is out of options, it is was unlikely the Rays could keep him since he would have had to clear waivers in order to be sent to Triple-A.
Lobaton was to make $950,000.
Here is a Baseball America scouting report on Karns:
Background: Karns recovered from a torn labrum to jump back onto the prospect landscape in 2012, leading the minor leagues in opponent average (.174) in his full-season debut. He followed that up with a strong season in the Double-A Eastern League. Karns made his big league debut in May but was sent back down to Harrisburg after struggling in three starts. He really found his groove upon his return to the EL, posting a 2.57 ERA the rest of the way.
Scouting Report: Physical and aggressive, Karns attacks hitters with a 91-95 mph power sinker, peaking at 98 on occasion. He has a second plus pitch in his wipeout hammer curveball, which ranges from 82-85 mph. He's still learning to throw the curve for strikes, but he excels at getting hitters to chase it. Karns also has a below-average changeup at 83-85 mph, but his feel for it increased marginally in 2013. He has a long arm action and a stiff front leg, leading to just fair command, though he does throw strikes with his fastball.
The Future: Unless Karns can make significant strides with his command and his third pitch, he profiles best as a big league set-up man. He'll enter 2014 as a 26-year-old in Triple-A, where he will continue to work as a starter.