Nate Karns Rumors

Marlins Seeking Controllable Pitching

The latest on the Marlins, who have already shipped Dan Haren to the Cubs…

Earlier Updates

  • Jon Heyman of CBS Sports says the Marlins are looking for controllable young pitching, with names such as Tyson Ross of the Padres, Carlos Carrasco of the Indians, and Nate Karns of the Rays in play.
  • A number of teams are calling on recently-demoted outfielder Marcell Ozuna, tweets Frisaro.  The Marlins have no urgency to move the 24-year-old, who hit 23 home runs last year.
  • The Marlins are shopping for starting pitching today, tweets MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro, in what he expects to be a busy day for the club.  Frisaro notes that Dan Haren is drawing interest from several teams.  Also, reliever Carter Capps was linked to the Yankees earlier.
  • Earlier this week, the Marlins sent impending free agent Mat Latos to the Dodgers in a 13-player deal, but the move seemed mostly about salary relief for Miami.  The assumption is the Fish are seeking young, controllable starting pitching, since both Latos and Haren will be eligible for free agency after the season.

AL East Notes: Pineda, Ackley, Orioles, Rays

Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda is dealing with a right arm injury, as WFAN’s Mike Francesca first reported, although the injury’s severity remains unclear. Joel Sherman of the New York Post cites Yankees executives in saying that the issue is a strained muscle in Pineda’s forearm as opposed to anything in his elbow, and it’s not believed to be serious at this time (Twitter links). Nonetheless, Marly Rivera of ESPN tweets that Pineda won’t start tonight’s game for New York, as had previously been scheduled. While many will speculate that there’s an increased need to add pitching, there’s been no definitive report on Pineda requiring a lengthy absence from the rotation. (And while some have said otherwise, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News tweets that there’s no issue with Ivan Nova‘s arm at present.)

More on the Yankees and their division, which is still reeling from Toronto’s now-official addition of David Price

  • The Yankees recently reached out to the Mariners to express interest in Dustin Ackley, reports Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (Twitter link). The two sides discussed a scenario in which outfielders Ramon Flores and Ben Gamel would’ve gone to the Mariners, but Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik wanted more for Ackley, and talks have since cooled, per Feinsand. Ackley, the former No. 2 overall pick in the draft, is again struggling this season and has batted a mere .215/.270/.366. Many have speculated that Zduriencik is loath to undertake in any type of sale, as his job security could be tied to the Mariners’ finish this season. Nonetheless, it’s a bit surprising to hear him holding out for any sort of return on Ackley, though Flores and Gamel admittedly aren’t all that well-regarded. Flores ranked 27th on MLB.com’s midseason edition of the Yankees’ Top 30 prospects, while Gamel didn’t place.
  • The Orioles are continually being asked for the likes of Kevin Gausman, Jonathan Schoop, Mychal Givens and even Manny Machado in trades, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). Each of those players is considered a deal-breaker for Baltimore, he writes. The Orioles have been seeking upgrades to their corner outfield situation recently.
  • The Rays are indeed listening to offers on Nate Karns (as was reported earlier today), tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. However, Topkin feels that the likeliest trade candidate, if the Rays move someone at all, remains right-hander Kevin Jepsen. Topkin reported last week that the Rays may very well trade a relief pitcher prior to the trade deadline.

Pitching Notes: Teheran, Karns, Ross, Giants

We just checked in on Yovani Gallardo, who may or may not be dealt before the deadline. Here’s the latest on the starting pitching market, which was one of many topics covered in today’s podcast with Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca.

  • Despite reportedly being prepared to deal Alex Wood to the Dodgers, the Braves are still listening on Julio Teheran, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports (Twitter links). He suggests, however, that the club may just be hoping for an overpay rather than actively shopping the young righty.
  • Given their starting depth, the Rays have indicated a willingness to listen to offers on right-hander Nate Karns, Passan reports on Twitter. Karns is already 27, but has ample team control and has emerged with 115 innings of 3.37 ERA pitching this year.
  • Padres righty Tyson Ross is “drawing intense interest,” Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. The AstrosBlue JaysCubs, and Dodgers are all in the mix, says Heyman, and Houston could be the “at the forefront” of efforts to pry him away from San Diego. Notably, many of those clubs are also viewed as prime contenders for David Price. Heyman further breaks down Price’s market in an article today.
  • The Giants are also said to be looking into a run at Price after falling short in a “late push” for Cole Hamels (per Rosenthal, on Twitter). GM Bobby Evans says he doesn’t foresee the club parting with players from the team’s current everyday lineup in any deals, as Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com tweets. But the Tigers do like several of San Francisco’s minor league arms, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets, which could make them plausible pursuers of the ace lefty.


AL East Notes: Orioles, Matusz, Red Sox, Karns

The Orioles still have multiple roster competitions ongoing, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. Out-of-options infielder Jimmy Paredes may be hitting his way onto the roster, while option-less outfielder David Lough faces a logjam. Neither player will be easy to keep, but the organization will be loath to part with the pair. Baltimore also has tough decisions in the rotation, the bullpen, and behind the dish (assuming that Matt Wieters is not ready to open the year on the active roster).

Here’s more from Baltimore and the rest of the AL East:

  • One Orioles player who is said to possibly be available is lefty Brian Matusz, with the Mets being a rumored destination. But Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets that the clubs have not talked about the players and money that would be involved in a possible deal. Instead, New York has only proceeded to the “scouting stage” on Matusz.
  • The Red Sox‘ glut of outfielders has been a story to follow all spring, and as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes, the situation remains about as complicated as might have been expected. Optioning Mookie Betts seems not to be a realistic or desirable possibility at this point, and Rusney Castillo is back in action and looking solid, creating problems — good ones, for the time being. As Cafardo explains, the difficulty at present revolves around questions such as whether Allen Craig can be dealt and whether Shane Victorino can or should open the season on the DL.
  • Rays righty Nate Karns has been impressive in camp, MLB.com’s Bill Chastain writes. Picked up from the Nationals in last year’s Jose Lobaton deal, Karns is expected to open the year in the rotation, due in part to the team’s rash of injuries. The 27-year-old still has only 24 innings of big league experience to his credit, but has already burned two option years and will look to take full advantage of the opportunity to prove he can stick as a major league starter.

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.)


Prospect Rumor Roundup: National Improvements

The demise of the Montreal Expos led to years of MLB control for the organization (2001-04), which resulted in limited budgets until the club was officially sold and became the Washington Nationals in 2005. Since that time, it's been an uphill battle to rebuild the system's depth, more or less from scratch.

One of the most difficult areas to create depth is pitching because of the large number of players needed, as well as the natural volatility and fragility of the role. It's taken years but the Nationals organization is finally starting to see the fruits of its labor, thanks to the guidance of General Manager Mike Rizzo and his front office staff, including both the scouting and player development departments. 

The six talented hurlers listed below have seen their values skyrocket during the 2013 season.

A.J. Cole, RHP, Double-A

Cole is an interesting prospect. He was originally drafted by the Nationals in the fourth round of the 2010 draft and was then traded to the Athletics in late 2011. When the two clubs paired up for another swap in January 2013, Cole was returned to his original organization.

Always a talented pitcher, Cole struggled in A-ball and spent parts of three years there. In a piece by Jonathan Raymond of MiLB.com, the young hurler admitted that he was disappointed to begin the 2013 back in A-ball. However, he stayed motivated and worked hard to get better. 

"Going through [Class A Advanced] again, I was there last year, got sent down to [Class A] with the A's, and I just had to bounce back, not be let down about being sent down and then starting at [Class A Advanced] this year," he said. "Basically getting the feel for everything, learning different things and showing that I'm able to play here, pitch here and be successful. I just want that to keep going on… I basically just started pitching like I knew how I could," he said.

Cole was recently promoted to Double-A and has allowed just 11 hits and four walks with a 0.90 ERA in his first 20 innings.

Lucas Giolito, RHP, Rookie ball

Giolito was arguably the most sought after prep arm in the 2012 amateur draft, but he slipped to the Nationals with the 16th selection of the first round after he suffered a serious elbow injury in his senior year of high school. The hard-throwing pitcher — who touched triple digits with his fastball when healthy — underwent Tommy John surgery in September 2012 but officially returned to the mound last month.

Teddy Cahill of MLB.com spoke to Doug Harris, the Nationals director of player development, who said Giolito progressed well in his rehab. "It's gone extremely well. We're pleased with his progression, where he is physically and how he's performing."

Giolito took to the mound in his first official game since 2012 on July 3 and he immediately made an impression on Harris. "I was really, really pleased with [his stuff]… The fastball velocity was good, it had good life and carry and he threw it for strikes. His curveball had above-average depth and finish and he's continuing to develop his changeup."

Taylor Jordan, RHP, Majors

Jordan experienced perhaps the most significant increase in value of any of the six players mentioned in this article. A former ninth-round draft pick, the right-hander showed some potential in 2011 before suffering an elbow injury and undergoing Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow.

He returned in 2012, but his results were inconsistent at best. The 2013 season, though, has been a different story, and he dominated A-ball and Double-A before settling into the Nationals' big league rotation.

Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman commented in Florida Today (unattributed staff writer) on how important the increased pitching depth has been for the organization in 2013. "We continually have guys come up from our minor league system and help us out. I think that shows how good of a system we have and what a good job they do getting those guys ready to contribute. Taylor has kind of saved us."

Nate Karns, RHP, Double-A

Karns has experienced a lot of turmoil since turning pro in 2009. The right-hander suffered a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder early in his career, which is one of the most catastrophic injuries to try and return from for a pitcher. It's widely considered a much more difficult surgery to recover from than Tommy John.

His personal life has also been a challenge. As James Wagner of the Washington Post detailed, Karns' biggest supporter — his mother — suffered through both cancer and a major stroke. "My mom has been through a lot and she has done a lot for me," said Karns. "It was really nice that I was able to show that all her sacrifices paid off for me and I didn't waste whatever she gave me and took full advantage of it."

Karns' mother was able to witness her son's Major League debut, and the two shared a special moment together after the game. The young pitcher has made a total of three appearances at the big league level but has since returned to Double-A where he's struck out 121 batters in 100 1/3 innings of work.

Ian Krol, LHP, Majors

Like Cole, Krol was acquired from the Athletics this past January and has rejuvenated his career in the Nationals system. After suffering through injury issues as a starter, the A's moved the lefty to the bullpen in late 2012. Returning to the 'pen in '13, Krol has thrived in his new role and has seen his average fastball velocity jump from 88-91 mph as a starter to as high as 96 mph as a reliever. As Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post explained, that bump in velocity took everyone by surprise, including Krol.

"I was like, 'Whoa. Where'd that come from?'" Krol said. "I didn't even think it was possible to sniff 96. I guess something must have happened. My arm was liking the relieving a lot better than the starting role. It was pretty insane to see 96 up there on the scoreboard. I never thought I would hit 96 in my life."

Krol has since become a stabilizing force in the Nationals' bullpen with a 2.25 ERA in 21 games and is well on his way to becoming one of the top left-handed relievers in the National League.

Sammy Solis, LHP, High-A

A 2010 second-round draft pick, Solis saw a sudden increase in fastball velocity in 2011 but, not long after, he blew out his elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery. The southpaw missed all of 2012 but returned in May this year. Since that time, his results have been understandably inconsistent but promising nonetheless. 

As James Wagner of the Washington Post stated, Solis' command hasn't fully returned yet but he's throwing pain free for the first time since 2011, and his velocity is back in the 93-94 mph range. He's also getting more comfortable with all of his pitches. "The feel has been the biggest thing," Solis said. "Change-up and curveball, especially."


Nationals To Promote Nate Karns

The Nationals will promote pitcher Nate Karns, who will start against Kevin Gausman and the Orioles tomorrow, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post notes (on Twitter). Karns will start in place of Ross Detwiler, who has a right oblique strain.

Karns ranked 99th on Keith Law's top 100 prospects list (Insider-only). He did not rank in Baseball America or MLB.com's lists. Law notes that Karns "was 93-97 as a starter with a yellow hammer of a curveball at 80-85 that he threw for more and more strikes as the season went on, meaning he could have two pitches that grade out at 70 on the 20-80 scale." Baseball America's Prospect Handbook lists Karns as the Nationals' fifth-best prospect and pegs him as a future mid-rotation starter or high-leverage reliever.

Karns, 25, had pitched this season at Double-A Harrisburg, posting a 4.60 ERA with 11.0 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9. He has not yet pitched at the Triple-A level, so his promotion qualifies as a bit of a surprise. It appears likely that the Nationals will send Karns down at some point, but if they don't, he will accumulate 125 days of service time this year. That means he might be eligible for arbitration as a Super Two player after the 2015 season, although the exact date that will establish the threshold of Super Two eligibility that season is unclear. He would be eligible for free agency after the 2019 season.