The Washington Nationals and Tampa Bay Rays are apparently discussing a trade that would send catcher Jose Lobaton to Washington, reports the Tampa Bay Times' Mark Topkin. Nationals beat writer Adam Kilgore adds that no deal is done yet, and that Washington's interest in the 29-year-old backstop dates back to early December.
The Rays' addition of Ryan Hanigan this winter has made Lobaton expendable, as Hanigan and incumbent Jose Molina are penciled in as the team's primary catchers.
Lobaton will make just $900,000 this season and won't be a free agent until after the 2017 season. After playing in just 91 games for the Padres and Rays from 2009 to 2012, Lobaton finally received significant playing time last year. In 100 games, he rewarded the Rays with a .249/.320/.394 line, 103 wRC+, 1.4 WAR, and solid defense behind the plate.
If the deal comes to fruition, Lobaton would likely serve as Wilson Ramos' backup in Washington, supplanting Jhonatan Solano.
Karns, meanwhile, is a 26-year-old right-hander with a plus fastball that can hit 98 MPH, a strong curveball, and a fringe-average change-up. Baseball America recently ranked him as the 9th best prospect in the Nationals' system, projecting him to end up in the bullpen barring improvements in both his command and change-up. In 2013, Karns posted a 3.26 ERA and 10.52 K/9 in 23 Double-A starts. He had a three-start stint in Washington mid-season, allowing 10 runs, but striking out 11 in 12 innings pitched.