Toronto Blue Jays Sign Mat Latos to Minor League Deal
In an effort to add more depth to their pitching staff, the Toronto Blue Jays have signed Mat Latos to a minor league contract.
The Toronto Blue Jays have a nice rotation on paper, but they say you can never have too much pitching. The team evidently agrees, as it has announced a minor league deal with right-hander Mat Latos with an invite to Spring Training. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi provided some financial details:
Mat Latos minor-lg deal is worth $1.5m if he makes the team + up to $500k in incentives, per sources. Mix of starting and relief incentives
— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) February 16, 2017
The 29-year-old Latos has all but fallen off the rails since the success he enjoyed earlier in his career with the Padres and Reds. After debuting with 10 starts in 2009, he announced his big league arrival emphatically the following year by winning 14 games to the tune of a 2.92 ERA and 1.08 WHIP for San Diego. He even finished eighth in the NL Cy Young voting. It’s still his best season to date in the major leagues.
From 2009 to 2014, Latos posted a 3.34 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 3.04 K/BB ratio while averaging 159 innings per year. All solid numbers for a young pitcher. With a year left until free agency, the Reds traded him to the Marlins before the 2015 campaign, and that’s when things started to go wrong. Latos sputtered in Miami, managing a 4.48 ERA over 16 starts.
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Prior to the July deadline he was traded again, this time to the Dodgers. He tossed only 24.1 frames of 6.66-ERA ball before L.A. released him in September. The Angels then picked him up, and he made two relief appearances for them in the season’s final week, in which he gave up two runs on four hits in 3.2 innings.
The 2016 season was largely more of the same. Latos inked a one-year deal with the White Sox, and he actually got off to an impressive start, allowing just two runs in 24.1 innings (0.74 ERA) over his first four outings. Unfortunately, he combusted to a 7.25 ERA over his next seven starts and was promptly designated for assignment in June. Latos signed a minor league contract with the Nationals, who called him up in September to pitch primarily out of the bullpen. He struggled in Washington as well, getting tagged for seven runs on 11 hits in 9.2 frames.
Who knows what’s in store for Latos in 2017, but he’s not a bad reclamation project to use a minor league deal on. He just turned 29 in December, so he’s certainly still young enough where a turnaround wouldn’t be completely unexpected. Though he’s lost a tick or two on his velocity over the years, the 6-foot-6 Latos has a big, strong frame that teams generally love to work with.
The Jays are seemingly set with their starting five of Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, Marcus Stroman and Francisco Liriano. Latos could be a decent backup option to stash at Triple-A in the event of an injury. A strong showing in spring camp could also earn him a role in the bullpen, where he could become something of a long-relief/swingman type for Toronto.