There’ve been reports suggesting that the Tampa Bay Rays and Washington Nationals have been discussed a potential trade involving Jose Lobaton for the past month. It’s remained unclear how close the two sides are, but Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times relays that Nate Karns appears to be the potential return from Washington. Other players could also be involved.
Lobaton has been drawing interest from multiple clubs for much of the offseason, following Tampa Bay’s acquisition of Ryan Hanigan to be their everyday catcher. The 29 year old hit .249/.320/.394 in 311 PA this past season as a switch hitter with fairly similar splits from each side of the plate in his first season receiving significant playing time. Lobaton is due just $900,000 for the 2014 season and still has three years of arbitration eligibility remaining.
He’d potentially give Washington an experienced backup option behind Wilson Ramos, something the team’s been quietly searching for all offseason. As their roster stands, the likely favorite for the role, Jhonatan Solano, has just 87 plate appearances in the Major Leagues under his belt.
Karns spent the bulk of the 2013 season in Double-A, pitching to a 3.26 ERA and 1.183 WHIP over 132.2 IP. He’d go 10-6 while making 23 starts for the team, adding a 10.5 K/9 rate. Karns did make three starts for Washington as well, but saw mixed results. He’s expected to be in the mix for the team’s fifth starter spot this spring, but in all likelihood he appears ticketed for Triple-A to begin the year since he still has options remaining.
Parting with Karns for Lobaton would appear to be a surprising move for Washington and a big win for Tampa Bay. Washington does arrive to camp with six solid starting options in play, but beyond Karns much of the organization’s pitching prospects are not yet in the upper minor leagues and don’t project to be MLB-ready before the 2015 season at the earliest. Moving Karns now would limit the team’s existing depth. Tampa Bay always appears interested in adding talented young arms (Karns is just 26) to their system, particularly given the uncertain future of their own aging pitching staff.
UPDATE: Appears the deal is done according to Topkin
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) February 13, 2014