Mat Latos is only 28 years old, but he's not coming off a strong season in 2015. After a career pitching for the Padres and Reds, he was flipped between three teams last season and wasn't his best self.
Now his poor showing (4.95 ERA in 2015) has dampened his market enough to search for a one year deal, and that has the Rays' interest:
Mat Latos coming off a rough year, but he's getting lots of calls from teams who view him as a potential turnaround candidate.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 22, 2015
According to defense-independent stats, Latos had a decent season, turning in a 3.72 FIP and 3.69 xFIP behind that sub-par ERA. His strikeouts were near his career averages, back up above 20%, and his walk rate was an improved 6.5%, and it's the latter that improved well throughout the seasons.
Latos sported a 7.5 BB% in the first half last season, and had a particularly erratic April, but settled nicely into a 4.7% second half, including a mere 2.6% BB-rate in September and October. But none of that is the full story on his season.
When the Marlins moved him to the Dodgers in 2015 it was a cost-saving maneuver, but came after he began to struggle through injury, hitting the DL in May.
He returned somewhat to form, but found a foot injury in July. Another injury would force him to the bullpen toward the end of the season. If this is the new norm for Latos, it's a big red flag.
Latos is also a mixed bag, tweaking his game while regularly exhibiting issues in the clubhouse. For what it's worth, the Rays are the kind of team that can appreciate both of those things. Then again, the Dodgers are a savvy team that believed releasing Latos mid-playoff hunt was the best course of action.
The move came while Latos was battling a neck injury, during which he had given up 16 runs in less than 18 innings as a starter for LA. After his release, the tattooed pitcher signed with the Angels to finish the season, made little noise, and is now a free agent.
Going back to the big picture, here is some relevant information regarding Latos, via Fangraphs:
- Has averaged 143 IP and 2.7 WAR over last three seasons.
- Has averaged 3.7 WAR per 200 IP* over last three seasons.
- Recorded a 1.5 WAR in 116.1 IP in 2015.
- Is projected to record 2.2 WAR per 200 IP**.
- Is entering his age-28 season.
- Made $9.4M in 2015, as part of deal signed in February 2015.
*That is, a roughly average number of innings for a starting pitcher.
**Prorated version of 2016 Steamer projections available here.
If Latos is a buy-low candidate, there's no reason the Rays shouldn't come calling, particularly if they are putting other starters on the trade block this offseason.
When healthy, he's capable of going 100-pitches, which was something not often seen in last year's busted up Rays rotation.
If Latos is himself a bust, Blake Snell wouldn't be too far behind.