(Sidenote: Yes, the Lobaton acquisition was first reported 2 days ago. Why was I late? My excuses are many, but mainly I’m doing this for fun, and I have NO INTENTION of letting it become a JOB!)
Here’s the story in a nutshell: The Nationals (Nats) have been talking with the Tampa Bay Rays since before Christmas about catcher Jose Lobaton. He appears to be an ideal backup for starting Nats catcher Wilson Ramos. First, they are both Venezuelans and have played together in the winter league down there. Second, Mike Rizzo prizes very highly a catcher’s ability to “frame” pitches, and Lobaton is a master at this important skill. What is this, you ask? It is the art of subtly (and quickly!) pulling a pitch that is slightly off home plate back into the strike zone (the “frame” as in picture frame!) without the umpire noticing. Sabermetricians (think moneyball) rank all catchers in many skills, including this one! What does Wilson Ramos say about the trade; “good guy, good teammate.”
So who did Rizzo give up in the deal? Nate Karns. Karns was in the mix to compete for the 5th starting pitcher slot this Spring. Honestly he had little chance of winning that one. He came up from AAA Syracuse and started 3 games last September for the Nats, but results were underwhelming. The Rays also gave up a pitcher, southpaw Felipe Rivero, who was impressive at high Class A ball last year.