The Rays added catcher Ryan Hanigan in a three-team deal with the Reds and Diamondbacks and re-signed Jose Molina this offseason, so they had an excess behind the plate and used it in the form of backup Jose Lobaton to acquire righthander Nate Karns from the Nationals. The Nationals also acquired two prospects in the deal: lefthander Felipe Rivero and right fielder Drew Vettleson.
Lobaton, who hit .249/.320/.394 in 2013, will fill a need as a backup to Wilson Ramos in D.C. Though he’s 29, he’s relatively inexpensive and will earn $900,000 in 2014 with three more seasons of team control. The Nationals’ No. 9 prospect, Karns already is 26 and made a brief appearance in the majors in 2013.
Nate Karns, rhp
Service Time: 0.015.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Karns recovered from a torn labrum to get his prospect shine back in his first year of full-season ball in 2012. He had another strong year in 2013 at Double-A. He attacks hitters with a 91-95 mph power sinker and has a second plus pitch in his hammer curveball. His issue is command. Though he’s worked as a starter through his career, he profiles as a set-up man unless he can make significant strides with his walk rate. He’s also on the old side for a prospect but has a power arm.
Felipe Rivero, lhp
A Futures Game participant in 2012, Rivero has one of the liveliest arms in the Rays organization. He ended the 2013 season on a strong note by allowing just five earned runs in his final six starts. He works off a 91-94 mph fastball with tailing movement that generates groundballs. Endurance is the key to his future as he tends to lose velocity over the course of starts. A move to the bullpen could be in the offing if that does not improve.
Drew Vettleson, rf
Age: 22. Bats: L.
Tampa Bay’s No. 20 prospect, Vettleson has lived up to his billing as a hitter since being drafted. He uses a short, quick swing and produces plus bat speed to find holes. He hit 15 homers in the low Class A South Atlantic League in 2012, but his power fell off in the high Class A Florida State League in 2013. Defensively, he has above-average arm strength and accuracy, though he made 14 errors last season. He has the potential to be a regular but has struggled against lefthanders (.559 OPS in 2013).
Jose Lobaton, c
Age: 29. Bats: B.
Service Time: 2.138.
Lobaton, who set career highs in games and plate appearances in 2013, was pushed out of Tampa Bay by the acquisition of Hanigan and the re-signing of Molina. He has a patient hitting approach and is a good receiver, with an adequate release. His throws show good rotation and he shows good flexibility behind the plate.