The Nationals purchased the contracts of Nathan Karns and Erik Davis tonight, adding both right-handers to their 40-man roster and protecting them from being selected in next month's Rule 5 draft.
All major-league clubs were required to finalize their 40-man rosters before midnight, with any eligible players who were not added to the roster now available to other clubs via the Rule 5 draft.
Among those left unprotected by the Nationals were left-hander Danny Rosenbaum, second baseman Jeff Kobernus and outfielder Destin Hood.
The Nationals were more worried about Karns and Davis being plucked away in the draft, which requires the player's new club to keep him on the big-league roster for a full season or else offer him back to his former organization.
Karns, who turns 25 on Sunday, earned organizational pitcher of the year honors after going a combined 11-4 with a 2.17 ERA in 24 games with low-Class A Hagerstown and high-Class A Potomac. A 12th-round pick in the 2009 draft out of Texas Tech, the husky right-hander battled a shoulder injury early in his professional career but put himself back on the radar screen with his breakthrough 2012.
Davis, 26, was less well-known in the organization. Acquired from the Padres for infielder Alberto Gonzalez in March 2011, the reliever went 8-3 with a 2.71 ERA in 48 appearances between Class AA Harrisburg and Class AAA Syracuse. Perhaps more significant, he currently sports an 0.56 ERA in 14 games with Gigantes del Cibao of the Dominican Winter League, a dominant performance that left the Nationals worried he'd be vulnerable via the Rule 5 draft.
Tonight's moves leave the Nationals with 38 players on their 40-man roster. They need to keep spots open in order to acquire players via free agency or trades.