Rays, Nats Discussing Trade Involving Lobaton, Karns

THURSDAY: The potential deal includes at least two other players, possibly minor leaguers that would head to Washington, reports Topkin. As of last night, however, Lobaton told Topkin that he had yet to hear anything and was planning to report for the spring with the Rays on Friday.

WEDNESDAY: The Rays and Nationals are again discussing a trade of catcher Jose Lobaton, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, with righty Nate Karns being contemplated as the return for the backstop. Topkin says that the deal could involve other players as well.

Lobaton, 29, has reportedly generated interest amongst multiple clubs, especially a Nationals team that would still like to add an established backup catcher. A switch-hitter, Lobaton has seen about twice as many plate appearances against righties than against lefties, maintaining fairly even splits from both sides of the plate. He is a fairly attractive asset, particularly given that he is owed just $900K this year and comes with three more years of control through arbitration. While Lobaton's contract profile makes him a fit for Tampa's general approach to roster-construction, he became expendable when the team picked up Ryan Hanigan from the Reds. Last year, in 311 plate appearances, Lobaton managed a .249/.320/.394 line, good for a league average OPS. 

Karns, meanwhile, is a 26-year-old who has yet to see substantial MLB action, but has a big arm. Baseball America rates him at the back end of the club's top ten prospects, after several other young arms. But the Nats have already dealt one relatively advanced pitcher from that list in Robbie Ray, and Karns was said to have a shot at competing for the team's fifth rotation spot. (If that failed, Karns would presumably serve as depth, especially with the news that Taylor Jordan could be slow to start the spring after ankle surgery.) In 132 2/3 Double-A innings last year, Karns put up a 3.26 ERA and 10.5 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9. He received three MLB starts last year, struggling to a 7.50 ERA in just 12 innings.

Should a deal go down along the lines suggested by Topkin, it would follow a similar pattern (on a somewhat smaller scale) to other recent deals in which Nationals GM Mike Rizzo has swapped out pitching prospects for relatively youthful, established, cost-controlled big-leaguers. In addition to shipping Ray (and more) to the Tigers for starter Doug Fister, Rizzo sent Alex Meyer to the Twins last year in exchange for center fielder Denard Span. (The Nats also acquired reliever Jerry Blevins in exchange for prospect Billy Burns this off-season.)

36 Responses to Rays, Nats Discussing Trade Involving Lobaton, Karns Leave a Reply

  1. MagicalDiesel 1 year ago

    Karns is the 9th best prospect in the Nats organization. I’d say Karns by himself would be a good enough return for a player the Rays really have no use for. But knowing Friedman, he’ll probably end up getting more. I’ll take it!

    • Joey 1 year ago

      To Nats fans: Be proactive now, while in the off season, for a quality part time catcher in Lobaton. Or, pay a premium during the season, trying to find a replacement in the event Ramos goes down. You’ll give up way more later. Trading a wild card pitcher with a major surgery for a no risk backstop is borderline a no brainer. If the Rays throw in another player it better not be much because this deal makes sense straight up.

      • Chris Weaver 1 year ago

        Agreed. As a Nats fan I love this trade. Karns has way to many question marks IMO and having a serviceable backup like Lobaton does nothing but improve the team. If Ramos goes down ( I am praying he doesn’t) I do not want to be stuck with Solano, Leon, or Synder as our primary.

        • Joey 1 year ago

          Well, it looks like you’re really gonna be a fan of this trade since we just gave away the farm for Karns. Karns can’t be this good. There has to be something coming back to the Rays, please….. Espinosa maybe????

  2. Nick Cannon 1 year ago

    The Rays need offense

    • amoreperfectunion 1 year ago

      Lobaton is not the piece to deal for offense. We don’t need more bench players (which is all Lobaton would bring in if traded for a position player). The only way to improve offense would be to get a starter to replace whoever is going to be in left, and no one is going to give up a solid starting left fielder for Lobaton. Lobaton for Karns sounds good to me – pitching depth is key.

  3. EmDash 1 year ago

    I’d hope Karns would bring back more than Lobaton – Karns has a much higher ceiling, with great velocity. Not opposed to the deal per se, I’d just hope the additional players would be from the Rays’ side.

    • David 1 year ago

      Is Karns ceiling that high? He’s already 26 which is old for a prospect. He’s already had labrum surgery which tends to resurface. And there’s doubt about whether or not he can actually be a starter at all. He does have very good velocity, but I dunno. I’m willing to be sold on Karns, but as a Nats fan, I’m pretty down on him compared to our other pitching prospects. I view Karns almost like I view Matt Purke at this point. If he pans out, great, but I’m not expecting anything.

      • EmDash 1 year ago

        Not that high, perhaps, I just meant higher than Lobaton’s potential value. He’s far from a sure thing, though, that’s true – he’s just had better results returning from injury than Purke, so I’d rate him slightly higher.

    • rorad 1 year ago

      The only reason Karns is even close to being as valuable as Lobaton is because he’s three years younger. Karns is probably the 8th starter and 8th or 9th reliever on the Nats. Lobaton would immediately be the backup catcher and would get plenty of PT.

  4. WolandJR 1 year ago

    Not a fan of trading a cost controlled, modestly touted prospect, for a back up catcher that is likely to only get 200-300 ABs at most. I know that Ramos has a history of injury, and I know that Karns ability to stay as a starter is in question… but come on! Karns throws hard, has decent secondary pitches, and projects as high as a 2 or 3 if he puts it all together or a back of the bullpen arm if he doesn’t.

    The Nats need a back up catcher and the Rays need to move a back up catcher, taking away the leverage for both teams. But the Rays need to get rid of salary more than the Nats need to improve their 25th roster spot by a half a win.

    • Seamaholic 1 year ago

      And Karns is quite good. I would think he’d be worth more than Lobaton, but I guess TINSTAAPP.

    • David 1 year ago

      As you hinted at, most scouts project Karns as a bullpen arm. I’m less high on Karns than most Nats’ prospects. He throws hard, but that’s about it. Of course, the Rays have a way of turning those types of guys into gold. I just don’t see much of a future for Karns in DC. Karns for Lobaton straight up favors the Rays, but I’d probably reluctantly pull the trigger if it’s Karns for Lobaton and a lottery ticket player or two.

      • WolandJR 1 year ago

        Yeah, I can’t argue with the assessment. If there were other players in the deal from the Rays side I would be more in favor of this.

        The Nats will also need young, cheap, bullpen arms very soon as their pen is getting to be prohibitively expensive. So guys in the minors that have an injury history but a ton of talent like Karns and Purke might be filling those roles when we trade Clippard and/or Storen and let Soriano walk.

      • EmDash 1 year ago

        They’ll have a lot of pitchers to replace, even in the bullpen, in 2 years. Stammen, Blevins, Clippard and Soriano will all be free agents unless they resign them. If Karns’ can’t hack it as a starter, he’d still be pretty useful as a Stammen replacement. I know the next two years are pretty all-in, but selling low on an possible asset for a very slight improvement could leave them in poor shape after 2015. That’s why the other players included are important, to my mind.

        • David 1 year ago

          Of course, but you also have other guys coming up too. Jake Johansen comes to mind as a power arm who will likely be a late-inning guy. Aaron Barrett is another who has dominated at the minor league level. And then you’ve got arms like Cole and Giolito over the next few years for the rotation. I really don’t know that this is selling that low on Karns. I just see it as dealing from a position of strength.

          Also keep this in mind: if Ramos misses significant time this year, we’re going to have to give up a much better prospect for a decent catcher mid-season.

          • Drazthegr8 1 year ago

            I don’t think Lobaton stops the Nats from having to trade a good prospect to replace Ramos if he goes down. Forget this intermediate step and wait to trade the good prospect for the right catcher.

          • Ryan 1 year ago

            I’d say you’d need more than just one good prospect to get a good starting catcher mid-season. Most teams with good enough starting catchers are reluctant to trade them right now, much less so during the season. Lobaton is almost certainly a far cheaper option.

  5. Metsfan93 1 year ago

    Karns is a nice return for Lobaton, but the other players will make or break this deal.

  6. Drazthegr8 1 year ago

    Don’t like the trade from the Nats perspective. Karns is a good quality arm and Lobaton maxes out as a 30-40 game/yr backup catcher. Is Lobaton really that much better than the plethora of backup catchers we already have to justify giving up on Karns?

    • Danny Phillips 1 year ago

      With Ramos injury history, the need for a solid backup catcher is heightened.

      • Drazthegr8 1 year ago

        Agree we need a good backup catcher. I am not convinced Lobaton is a much better option than Solano/Leon/Snyder/Hill at least until Nieto (back from Rule V) or Severino are ready

  7. Nat Williams 1 year ago

    Not a fan of this return for Karns… move on RIzzo

    • Crawdelli 1 year ago

      Lobaton did a nice job catching 100 games last year on a quality playoff team. His hitting has improved every year at a premium defensive position. He should bring back more to the Rays than an arm that will probably never pan out.

      • Nat Williams 1 year ago

        I understand that and its a good argument.. I specifically like Karns and think he has a future in MLB. Im just not ready to sell him for a backup catcher. Although, Ramos and Laboton is a nice combo.

        Like the author said, the recent news about Taylor Jordans ankle concerns me a bit, as well, in relation to Karns.

  8. Allismileo 1 year ago

    How many possible back-ups to Ramos do the Nats need? This guy is NOT an improvement on the other potential backups already mentioned. Rizzo, being the perfectionist that he is want the perfect roster.

    • David 1 year ago

      Really? Lobaton isn’t an improvement on Solano (career .602 OPS, even worse in the minors) or Leon (career .649 OPS in the minors, boosted by anomaly of a year in 2012) or Snyder who wasn’t even in the majors last year?

      Wanting the perfect roster is a good thing, not a bad thing, btw.

    • Chris Weaver 1 year ago

      So you would rather take a chance on three guys who are minor leaugers with minimal MLB experience over getting a serviceable backup catcher at the cost of a prospect who is no where near even Top 100?

  9. DrewIsNumber1 1 year ago

    Give Leon and Solano a chance over losing a high quality arm for a backup catcher with a ceiling at the same level of the two already on the roster…

    • Chris Weaver 1 year ago

      This team is in a win now mode. I don’t think there is room on the roster to give guys a “chance”. Gotta go for it now.

  10. Cole Hardin 1 year ago

    Nathan “The Pony” Karns would be better suit being a reliever. After watching him get lit up in college as a starter its better to let him just throw gas in short outtings. Reminds me of Scheppers for the rangers. Better reliever than starter.

  11. JoshReddicksWalkupSong 1 year ago

    Why isn’t Lobaton being traded to the A’s? Isn’t that a law or something?

  12. Runtime 1 year ago

    How on earth could a front office be operated so loosely that trade negations like this could get out? I could understand things like “Rays shopping Lobaton” but to have specific players going both ways… yuck.

    • Seamaholic 1 year ago

      Must be close to done. Really bad practice to leak if it’s really just “discussions.”

    • teddy 1 year ago

      guarentee you it wasn’t the nats front office that leaked the rumors, they never leak anything.

  13. FS54 1 year ago

    Hak Ju Lee and Odorizzi? 😀

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