Source: Rays listening on Nate Karns, who’s drawing interest from a number of teams. Five years of control with really good offspeed stuff.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 30, 2015
Karns is enjoying a breakout rookie season. He had spent parts of 2013 and 2014 with the Washington Nationals and Rays, but had thrown only 24.0 innings combined in those two years. So far this season, he has pitched to a 3.37 ERA in 20 starts and has struck out 8.3 per nine innings. Karns has excellent command of his offspeed pitches and comes with five more years of team control. There could be some concern regarding Karns’ overall control, as he leads the league with 12 wild pitches, and walks 3.1 per nine. His strong season comes on the heels of an inconsistent season at Triple-A that saw him post a 5.08 ERA in 27 starts with Durham. Overall, in his minor league career, Karns walked 3.8 per nine, but also struck out 10.3 per nine.
The Rays may be willing to trade Karns and capitalize on his unexpectedly strong rookie season. There are no guarantees that his performance is repeatable next season, and his 3.73 FIP points to a bit of luck being involved in his strong season. The Rays are also loaded with starting pitching talent in the farm system, as usual. Left-hander Blake Snell has a 1.28 ERA in 18 games this season, and could figure into the rotation plans as early as next season.
If the Rays do decide to actively shop Karns, he could become a fallback candidate for any team that misses out on Tyson Ross, Yovani Gallardo, Andrew Cashner, and other pitchers in the pool of arms below Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto, and David Price. It’s easy to see a contending team in need of pitching offering the Rays a few minor league hitters for Karns, especially given the five years of club control he comes with. Karns is not a slam-dunk going forward, but his performance this year indicates a bright future. The ball is in the Rays court now as they decide how aggressively they want to pursue a trade of Karns.