The Washington Nationals have acquired the backup catcher they have been searching for all season, as the team agreed on a three-player deal that will bring Tampa Bay Rays catcher Jose Lobaton and two prospects to Washington. The Rays will receive RHP Nate Karns, the Nationals’ number nine prospect according to Baseball America.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) February 13, 2014
Lobaton hit .249 with seven home runs and 32 RBIs in 100 games with the Rays in 2013. The 29-year-old catcher has a .228 batting average in parts of four major league seasons with the Rays and the Padres.
Karns, 26, posted 7.50 ERA in three starts for the Nationals last season over which he was worth -0.4 fWAR. At Double-A Harrisburg, the right-hander posted a 3.26 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 48 walks and 155 strikeouts in 132 1/3 IP.
Many believed Karns would eventually become a starter in the back end of the Nationals’ rotation, as he boasts a plus curveball and a 95 mph fastball. But considering that the team is already loaded with young pitching talent and they have at least eight capable right-handed relievers, the deal makes sense. Karns hoped to make the Nationals’ roster out of spring training, but he has no hard feelings about the trade.
“It just kind of fell into my lap this morning,” Karns told MLB.com’s Bill Ladson. ”I talked to [Nationals general manager] Mike Rizzo. I have good feelings. It’s just a new opportunity. Not everybody gets to stay in the same organization their whole career. Maybe, in the future, I’ll be back. If not, I had a great time here. I have nothing but great things to say about it.”
Vettleson, 22, was the 42nd overall pick in 2010. The outfielder posted a .274/.331/.388 line with the Rays’ High A affiliate last season. Rivero went 9-7 with a 3.40 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 127 innings, also for the Rays’ High A affiliate.
The Nationals had been searching for a backup catcher all offseason and for a while it seemed as though the team would be content with Jhonatan Solano, Sandy Leon and Chris Snyder battling it out for the spot. While today’s deal is certainly not good news for them, it’s definitely good news for Mike Rizzo and the Nationals.
The Nationals gave up one of their best young pitching prospects, but in return they got someone who they believe will help them achieve their ultimate goal: a World Series championship in 2014.
Pitchers and catchers began arriving to the team’s complex in Viera less than ten hours ago, and already one of the biggest questions the team faced entering spring training has been answered.