Should The Mariners Be So Willing To Let Nathan Karns Go?
The Mariners starters had the fourth-best ERA in the American League last season in no part due to the work that Nathan Karns put in before he was sidelined with back issues and put on the disabled list. That is surly why he has appeared to be the most expendable piece of the Mariners rotation since they activated from the DL in early November.
Before Nathan Karns was plagued by lower back strains in the throws of summer, he was not only struggling to keep men from crossing home plate, but he wasn’t able to stay on the mound for very long either.
Karns started the year as the Mariners last man in the rotation. Before his injury, he would find himself coming out of the bullpen due to his unimpressive play.
Karns was uninspiring out of the gate. Over the first two months of the season, he had a mediocre ERA of 3.43, held batters to a .245 batting average, but had a stretch of four consecutive quality starts, the first of which was a seven inning doozy where he allowed only a pair of base knocks.
Once the summer months rolled around, Karns began to unravel in his new stomping grounds -Karns was picked up by the Mariners in November of 2015.
Karns surrendered four or more runs in three of his June starts, the first being a June 4th outing where he gave up a season-high seven runs.
However, the most alarming aspect of Karns performances in June was that he never pitched in the sixth inning or later because he had already been relieved of his throwing duties.
After Karns allowed four runs, five hits, and two walks in five innings in late June, the Mariners moved him to the bullpen. And, while Karns took it like a man, he made it quiet clear that he preferred a starting role.
His role as a middle reliever could’ve panned out well if Karns would’ve settled in, but he never did. In his six relief appearances, he allowed three home runs, thirteen earned runs and six walks in 11.1 frames.
He was also still giving up runs in bunches. In four of those appearances, he let opponents tag him for two or more runs, most notably outings where Karns was rocked for four and five runs respectively despite not pitching more than two innings per appearance.
Shortly after his rough patch in the pen, he developed back problems that took him off the mound for the rest of the year.
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Whether it was an injury that developed over time or if it was the baseball Gods telling Karns that he needed some time away from the game, this injury put Karns future with the Mariners up in the air.
His play before the impairment was not very promising, and because of the pain, he didn’t have an opportunity to show what he’s capable of on a regular basis.
So, since early November when his back was now fully recovered (for the time being), the Mariners have been fielding offers for a veteran starting pitcher that most likely included Karns. And you can be sure that the latest talks with the Cincinnati Reds and Tampa Rays have included the right-hander as well.
Aside from the known trade rumors, Yanks Go Yard has suggested that Karns could also be a good fit for the New York Yankees.
Whatever happens with Karns, it is fairly clear that, with a rotation of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Chris Heston, Ariel Miranda and maybe even the newly acquired Robert Whalen, Karn’s underwhelming 2016 matched with potential future back problems, gives the Mariners pause on retaining him, which seems to be why Dipoto is still looking for a veteran pitcher and probably using Karns as bait.