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Rays trade Jose Lobaton to Nationals for pitching prospect Nate Karns

After many weeks of rumored interested between the Rays and Nationals, the deal seems to finally be in place.

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The Rays are sending catcher Jose Lobaton to the Washington Nationals for Top-10 pitching prospect Nate Karns:

Jose Lobaton was out of options and the odd man out this off-season after the Rays re-signed Jose Molina to a two-year deal, and then acquired Ryan Hanigan via trade and extending him to be the primary catcher for the next three-to-four years. The trade of Lobaton was a given, and the fact the Rays can return anything of value is a victory.

As noted by Topkin, the expectation is that the Rays will send a couple minor league players with Lobaton to DC.

169606143Photo credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Here's my write-up on Karns from yesterday's speculation:

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...

Karns effectively replaces Jesse Hahn, who was traded along side Alex Torres to the Padres for utility infielder Logan Forsythe, reliever Brad Boxberger, starting prospect Matt Adriese, relief project Matt Lollis, and catching prospect Maxx Tissenbaum.

The Rays had previously discussed Lobaton for infielder Danny Espinosa with the Nationals, but they declined, leading to the Forysthe acquisition. From a depth perspective, replenishing the loss of Hahn with Karns is a shrewd move on behalf of Friedman and Co.

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. He also made three major league starts between the end of May and early June.

Update 12:10 - It looks like Felipe Rivero is one of the players being sent to  Washington.

While I still like the trade, Rivero is not without value. The undersized 22-year old Venezuelan lefty could very well have a future in a major-league bullpen (with an outside shot at maturing into a starter) . Baseball America ranked him as the 17th best Rays prospect going into this season, while FanGraphs and Baseball HQ both ranked him as the 10th best Rays prospect (full prospect-rankings matrix).

Update 1:55 - Per team announcements, the final player the Rays send off is OF Drew Vettleson. If you gauge by Baseball America rankings, the Rays send off their 17th and 20th best prospects with a DFA candidate for a No. 9 prospect in Karns.