Mat Latos, Texas Rangers potential offseason acquisition: While the Rangers are supposedly looking primarily at trade targets that they can have under team control for more than the 2015 season, they have been linked to Cincinnati righthanded starter Mat Latos, who the Reds are supposedly, at the least, listening to offers on. While Latos is a free agent after the 2015 season, and thus would essentially be representing a rental, he is also a pitcher who, when healthy, has been a legitimate #2/#3 starter.
Latos, who turns 27 in December, is a righthanded starter who was originally drafted by, and come up to the majors with, the San Diego Padres. After 2+ seasons in San Diego, he was shipped to Cincy prior to the 2012 season in exchange for Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, Edinson Volquez and Brad Boxberger, at a time when Grandal and Alonso were generally considered to be top 50 caliber prospects.
Latos was a rotation stalwart from 2010-13, logging 799 innings over 127 games during those 4 seasons, with a 3.27 ERA, a 3.29 FIP, and a 116 ERA+, with 13 bWAR during that time. If you prefer fWAR, Latos was even better, as he put up 14.6 fWAR from 2010-13.
Latos had problems in 2014, however. while he had consistently averaged close to 93 mph on his fastball prior to 2014, last year his velocity was off by about 2 mph, coming in at 90.7 mph on average on his fastball. His groundball rate dropped significantly, from over 45% the previous two years to 37.7% last season. His ERA was 3.25, but that was good for just a 111 ERA+ in this lower-offense ERA, and his FIP jumped to 3.65. Prior to 2014, he had elbow surgery to remove bone chips, and then tore cartilage in his knee in spring training, which required surgery. Latos ended up battling elbow issues throughout 2014, having his rehab work halted in April due to a strained right flexor muscle, and then missing his final few starts in September due to a bone bruise in his elbow.
Latos said about a week ago that he has had stem cells now injected into his right elbow to "regrow some of the tissue in the cartilage."
So Latos carries more risk, and more reward, than a lot of the guys we've discussed. MLB Trade Rumors estimates that he'll get $8.4 million in arbitration for 2015, and while that's cheap for what you'd expect from him if he's healthy in 2015, the idea of paying that -- and giving up premium prospects -- for a guy dealing with elbow issues is scary.
But adding a healthy Latos to Yu Darvish and Derek Holland would give the Rangers perhaps the best 1-2-3 punch at the top of the rotation in the division, and go a long way towards getting the Rangers back in contention.
I speculated this weekend that the cost for Latos would probably be more than what the Rangers got for Joakim Soria, even with Latos's injury issues. So start the package with Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel, and then add to that some value...say, Travis Demeritte or Michael DeLeon. That's probably what it would take to land Latos.
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