On Thursday, it was announced that the Washington Nationals traded 26-year-old righty Nate Karns to the Tampa Bay Rays for catcher Jose Lobaton, and a pair of 22-year-old minor leaguers, outfielder Drew Vettleson and left-handed pitcher Felipe Rivero.
Karns, who made his MLB debut in 2013, was ranked the #8 prospect in our Grading on the Curve Top 15 prospects list for the Washington Nationals (with help from our sister site District on Deck) while Rivero was ranked #13 on our Tampa Bay Rays list (with help from Rays Colored Glasses).
Karns has a big arm, throwing in the low-to-mid 90s, an outstanding curveball and a changeup that appears to be at least average. For the Rays, it looks like getting Karns is a big win in a trade that finds a new home for an out-of-options backup catcher and (according to Baseball America rankings), their 17th and 20th ranked prospects for (again, according to BA) a 9th ranked prospect in Karns (MLB.com had Vettleson as #10 and Rivero as #18 in their end-of-2013 list).
Karns, who has some lingering health issues after 2010 shoulder surgery, shouldered (pun intended) a heavy workload in 2013, throwing 132 2/2 innings in Double-A Harrisburg and adding an additional 12 in the big leagues. He also has some command issues, posting a career-low 8.7% walk rate in Double-A to go along with his outstanding 28% strikeout rate.
Looking at the numbers and scouting reports (and some limited video of his stuff), it looks like the Rays get an arm who has a solid back-end-of-the-rotation floor in the big leagues. Karns has the stuff to get major league hitters out but still needs to refine his command in order to avoid getting shelled in the majors.
It’s likely that the Rays, who are usually very patient with their prospects, will give Karns more time to develop in the minor leagues, especially considering that they already have a very deep and young rotation with David Price, Alex Cobb, Matt Moore, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi penciled in for the first five spots with the potential graduation of Alex Colome, Enny Romero and Mike Montgomery on the horizon.