The Washington Nationals and Tampa Bay Rays completed a trade on Thursday. The Rays sent catcher Jose Lobaton, lefty Felipe Rivero, and outfielder Drew Vettleson to the Nationals in exchange for right-hander Nate Karns.
The Nationals acquire the backup catcher for Wilson Ramos in Lobaton that they have been coveting for the past few weeks. They also gain two notable minor-leaguers. In return, they give up Nate Karns, a pitcher with a ton of potential and a very good skill set. Many thought that with a good Spring Training, Karns could take the fifth rotation spot. Now, he'll be headed to Tampa, where he will be put into a similar situation.
The 29-year-old Lobaton posted a 100 OPS+ in 311 plate appearances with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013. He triple-slashed a .249/.320/.394 with 7 home runs and 32 RBI. In 76 starts at catcher, Lobaton was serviceable, posting a -8 fielding runs above average. The Nationals will be getting a good hitting catcher (which can be a rarity), who can make a good start once in awhile. Lobaton can call a good game as well; Rays pitchers posted a 3.73 ERA in his starts.
Nate Karns, 26, is the Rays only player return. He, in 12 Major League innings in 2013, went 0-1 with a 7.50 ERA and a 1.917 WHIP with the Nationals. In 23 minor-league starts, Karns went 10-6 with a 3.26 ERA in 132 2/3 innings pitched.
The Nationals will also be receiving Felipe Rivero and Drew Vettleson. Rivero, 22, has a career 3.45 ERA in 386 minor league innings in the Rays system. In 2013, he went 9-7 with a 3.40 ERA in 127 innings (25 games, 23 starts) at the Rays High Single-A affiliate. Vettleson, 22, is a former first round pick. He has a .760 OPS in 1,345 plate appearances. In 2013, Vettleson hit a triple slash of .274/.331/.388 in 516 plate appearances at the Rays High Single-A affiliate.