Rays and Nationals discussing Lobaton for RHP Nate Karns

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

We finally have a substantial rumor in the Jose Lobaton saga:

It's been clear that Lobaton would be traded by the Rays. He is out of options, and the third catcher on the depth chart behind the recently acquired Ryan Hanigan, who has been named the primary catcher, and the returning Jose Molina, pitch framer extraordinaire.

But that doesn't mean we've known where Lobaton has been headed. He's a decent option for a back up catcher, switch hitting with a developing game in every regard. Trending up, learning on the fly, and a great clubhouse presence if you're fond of ice cream.

I digress. The fact the Rays might return anything for Lobaton is good news on a day Utility speedster Emilio Bonifacio cleared waivers, making him a free agent and leaving the Royals without anything in return. (We have on good word the Rays are not interested in Bonifacio, for what it's worth.)

Nate Karns is a 26 year old pitcher who made three mid-season starts for the Nationals last season, but started and ended the season in Double-A ball. He was ranked the fifth best prospect in the Nationals system headed into 2013 by both Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus, and sixth by John Sickles. This off-season, BA dropped him to ninth, while Sickles and B-Pro have yet to release their Nationals rankings.

Karns is a tall six-three, with a 95 fastball and a potential plus-plus curve. His career had been limited early on by injury, including a right shoulder surgery in 2010, but that hasn't limited optimism for this potential No. 3 starter. Profiles note Karns pounds the bottom of the zone well with the fastball, while his curve is devastating for batters. When he steps on the mound, it seems he goes to war.

His command lacks consistency, as could his health, but this could be a premium get when the Rays are touting a player without a home on the 25-man roster. This trade could always expand, as the recent Torres/Forsythe trade did when it grew to seven players and included a respectable prospect from the Rays system.

Over 23 starts at the Double-A level, Karns held a 3.26 ERA with a 155/48 K/BB ratio for a 28.0% K-rate and 8.7% walk-rate, with 76.2% left on base.

We will update if news breaks.

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