This signing, the first of new GM Mike Elias’s tenure, looks to be a nice match for all involved. Karns will help fill out the O’s rotation, which had some questions at the back end. He’ll have a chance to show he can finally move past the health issues that have plagued him in recent years.
There’s upside here as well for the Baltimore organization. If Karns is at all successful, he ought to represent an appealing arbitration asset next fall. That’s not too great a concern for Karns, since he only would have one season of arb eligibility remaining. Effectively, the O’s pick up a club option the value of which will float with Karns’s on-field contributions. That contract situation also boosts the potential trade appeal if things go well.
Karns had hoped to get back on track last year after thoracic outlet surgery cut short his 2017 campaign. He agreed to a $1.375MM deal with the Royals for his first arb-eligible season. As it turned out, though, elbow issues arose that cost him all of 2018.
Previously, Karns had established himself as a talented, if somewhat inconsistent, MLB starter. He has thrown 310 2/3 total innings at the game’s highest level, carrying a 4.37 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9.
Karns relies primarily on a four-seamer that sits just below 94 mph and a curve that he has historically spun on about one of every three pitches, with a change and sinker also rounding out his arsenal. That combination showed particular promise early in the ’17 campaign, with Karns carrying a personal-high 12.5% swinging-strike rate before going down.