Skip to content

Nats have been willing to trade top pitching prospects

Feb 14, 2014, 6:00 AM EST

USA Today Sports Images USA Today Sports Images

VIERA, Fla. — Brad Peacock and A.J. Cole were the Nationals’ top two ranked pitching prospects entering 2012. Both were traded to Oakland in the deal that brought Gio Gonzalez to Washington.

Alex Meyer likely would have been the Nationals’ second-ranked pitching prospect entering 2013, before he was traded to Minnesota for Denard Span.

Robbie Ray and Nate Karns ranked high on the Nationals’ prospect list this winter. Until Ray was part of the trade that brought Doug Fister to Washington, and Karns was dealt yesterday to Tampa Bay for catcher Jose Lobaton and two minor-leaguers.

That’s five highly rated pitching prospects traded away in the last 26 months. And a window into general manager Mike Rizzo’s mindset when it comes to building a franchise that can win both now and down the road.

In each of these cases, the young pitchers were dealt in exchange for major-league talent, players who would have an immediate impact on the Nationals’ fortunes. And because every member of Washington’s big-league rotation is under club control for at least two more seasons, Rizzo has felt comfortable making these trades, knowing those prospects were blocked on the depth chart.

“Because of the young, controllable rotation that you have in the big leagues, it allows you to move some younger prospect pitchers,” he said yesterday after announcing the Karns move.

The theory goes even deeper than that, though. In trading away some of his best young pitchers, Rizzo has also made an effort to acquire even younger pitchers, prospects who are a year or two farther from reaching D.C. but now will be ready to debut around the same time some members of the current rotation will become free agents.

If Fister and/or Jordan Zimmermann depart via free agency after the 2015 season, a wave of pitching prospects that includes Cole (who was re-acquired last winter in the Michael Morse trade), Sammy Solis, Felipe Rivero (acquired yesterday from the Rays) and perhaps No. 1 prospect Lucas Giolito should be ready to take their place.

“You go from a 26-year-old prospect in Karns to a 22-year-old prospect in Rivero,” Rizzo explained. “It kind of spaces out the waves of pitchers coming. … So there’s a little break there. It staggers our prospects and their ETAs to the big leagues.”

So, the organization has to be mindful of the different tiers of prospects it’s trying to stockpile throughout its farm system?

“Definitely,” Rizzo said. “You have a certain amount of control. Guys run out of options. If you have a group of guys running out of options at the same times … it’s [better] to have them tiered and separated. That kind of fell into our plans and our strategy in this trade.”

Just another reminder how much is involved with every transaction an organization makes, and the effect it can have not only for the upcoming season but for many seasons to come.

  1. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 14, 2014 at 7:32 AM

    we have traded quite a few pitching prospects. I would like ours to develop a bit further. We are gonna need them in no time. The one we might sorely miss is Meyer. The guy is developing into a top prospect for Twins which is a good farm system.

    • dgourds - Feb 14, 2014 at 8:30 AM

      Yes, it will be interesting to see if Span was worth losing him. This year will determine that. If Denard has a good year and we make and do well in the playoffs, I’d say it was worth it. We are in a short window where Meyer wouldn’t have helped us much, but Span could be a difference maker. We’ll see!

      • NatsLady - Feb 14, 2014 at 9:18 AM

        Don’t forget what it was like NOT to have a centerfielder, with Ankiel (hopeless at the plate), Harper and Werth taking turns along with some AAAA players, and infielders in the corners. With Span out there, you just don’t have to worry about it. Hopefully, Span will keep his offense at the level it was late in the summer.

      • Section 222 - Feb 14, 2014 at 1:33 PM

        Very true NL. And let’s not forget Lastings Milledge, Preston Wilson, Nook Logan (where was he going? what was he thinking?), and Tony Plush. Stability up the middle is a very welcome, and recent, phenomenon.

  2. ArVAFan - Feb 14, 2014 at 8:17 AM

    Well, the mood around here is considerably lighter today than yesterday. Seeing-eye Single and her spouse left for Florida from Reagan, on time, 15 minutes ago. That bodes well for our plane out tomorrow, and for all of us to be watching the P & C with NatsJack, Mark, and anyone else in 48 hours.

    • Candide - Feb 14, 2014 at 10:45 AM

      You’re gonna miss the Alexandria Symphony tomorrow!

  3. scnatsfan - Feb 14, 2014 at 8:26 AM

    Funny post over at another site saying ‘you can argue the Nats got more value for Karns then the Tigers got for Fister’ .

    • nats128 - Feb 14, 2014 at 10:13 AM

      It takes time to see how these trades pan out.

  4. Section 222 - Feb 14, 2014 at 8:26 AM

    This is exactly why teams that develop their farm systems have an advantage, and why there really won’t be a winner or loser in this trade, even in retrospect. Regardless of whether Karns develops into a good reliever, or even a starter, there really was no future for him here. Not just because of talent, but because of timing and age. So he was expendable. At the same time, the Rays had promising younger prospects to offer to sweeten the deal for hte Nats because Lobaton alone wasn’t going to fetch Karns for them. Well played on both sides.

    • DaveB - Feb 14, 2014 at 9:04 AM

      I basically agree, but I think Karns could have had a significant impact for the Nats in the BP next year. With Soriano presumably leaving as a FA, and Clip & Storen both getting expensive, Karns could have slotted in nicely as a young controllable back of the bullpen set up guy. However, we do have other options coming along there and you have to give something to get something.

      Speaking of other options .. Has anyone had a sighting of Christian Garcia throwing in camp yet? I’m really curious whether he is healthy at this point.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Feb 14, 2014 at 9:21 AM


    • Steady Eddie - Feb 14, 2014 at 9:37 AM

      As I’ve written before, it’s all about relative value to different teams:

      “@Ken_Rosenthal: Additions of Karns, Bedard over last two days increase #Rays’ depth. Loss of Hellickson until mid-May or June had left team more vulnerable.”

      Rays needed Karns a lot more than we did, and vice versa Lobaton. Two extra prospects show how great the rays need is.

  5. micksback1 - Feb 14, 2014 at 9:08 AM

    good trade, i never really felt good about Karns

  6. Section 222 - Feb 14, 2014 at 9:11 AM

    Crickets. The sounds of silence. That’s pretty much what we’ve heard about Garcia this off season. Doesn’t seem like he’s a factor this year. Will be interesting to hear from folks who are down there how he seems.

    • dgourds - Feb 14, 2014 at 11:47 AM

      You’re right. I was so impressed with him 2 years ago. I could see him as an eventual closer or set up guy with his velocity. Too bad about his injury. I hope he makes it back.

    • shawndc04 - Feb 14, 2014 at 3:03 PM

      From the Post:

      Garcia will start workouts Saturday with no restrictions, no different than any of his teammates. This afternoon, Garcia played catch in the outfield at Space Coast Stadium and fired some pitches off flat ground. Garcia pitched in the Mexican winter league for a month this offseason, posting a 2.16 ERA in 8 1/3 innings, striking out eight and walking six.

  7. NatsLady - Feb 14, 2014 at 9:24 AM

    Off-topic, but this is a great article about the Pirates’ payroll situation.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Feb 14, 2014 at 10:28 AM

      Wow; ugly numbers (if you’re a Pirates fan). Thanks.

  8. David Proctor - Feb 14, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    I guess the clubhouse attendant better start stocking up with ice cream.

    • Steady Eddie - Feb 14, 2014 at 9:56 AM

      Not toouch, I hope! We’ve already got one very slow catcher.

  9. David Proctor - Feb 14, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    Braves give Julio Teheran a 6 year extension. Only buys out one free agent year, so not that big of a deal, but interesting nonetheless.

  10. Chazz - Feb 14, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    “Detwiler’s Belt” would be a great name for a fan club.

  11. Chazz - Feb 14, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    Dan Kolko @masnKolko

    Detwiler’s belt: “WARNING: This product may contain a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer…”
    Retweeted by Mark Zuckerman

  12. Steady Eddie - Feb 14, 2014 at 11:07 AM

    Like I said yesterday, the rays were willing to trade away as much as they did because they value cards as a starter, not a reliever:

    And then executive VP Andrew Friedman’s words And then [Rays’] executive VP Andrew Friedman’s words illustrated just how much.

    “We feel like he’s got a chance to be a really good major-league starting pitcher,” Friedman said. “He’s a big, strong, physical guy. Plus fastball, plus breaking ball, and the changeup really came on for him last year. We think he’s got the size, strength, durability to potentially be a guy that can put 200-plus innings on his body.”

  13. Steady Eddie - Feb 14, 2014 at 11:08 AM

    Edit function please! “Karns” not “cards” (!!!)

  14. David Proctor - Feb 14, 2014 at 11:09 AM

    Dan Kolko ‏@masnKolko 21s
    Tyler Clippard happy to have contract issue resolved without arbitration. Says multi-year deal was briefly discussed but nothing came of it

    That’s interesting. I’m surprised they’d want to do multiple years with a reliever, especially one with as much mileage on his arm as Clip.

    • NatsLady - Feb 14, 2014 at 12:44 PM

      Every year people say that, and every year Clip is steady.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 14, 2014 at 12:47 PM

        I was thinking the same thing. Clip’s K has trended down a bit, ERA goes up and down from year to year but the guy is still one of the best setup man around, with potential to be a closer.

    • Jb - Feb 14, 2014 at 1:05 PM

      Clippard’s agent: “Multi-year deal?”

      Rizzo: “No.”

      End of discussion.

      • David Proctor - Feb 14, 2014 at 1:08 PM

        From reading Kilgore’s article, it sounded like they just wanted to buy out the 2 arb years, like we did with JZimm and Desi.

  15. philipd763 - Feb 14, 2014 at 11:27 AM

    Karns is old for a prospect and he’s had major surgery on his shoulder so there are some big question marks about him. Ramos has a history of leg injuries so it was key to sign an experienced quality backup. Lobaton is young for a backup catcher, only 29, he’s in good shape, he’s a decent hitter, and he’s good defensively. Rizzo deserves kudos for this deal!

    • Section 222 - Feb 14, 2014 at 1:38 PM

      Agreed. If Karns were 23, I’d feel a lot worse about losing him. The Rays obviously saw something they liked a lot to give up two decent prospects along with Lobaton. On the other hand, they had no place for Lobaton, and maybe Rizzo was offering the best value they could find, particularly if they wanted someone who might be able to pitch in the majors some time this year. Or maybe they asked for Jordan, Roark, or Cole, and Rizzo said, “no way.”





As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at Click here for past audio clips.

Follow us on Twitter