The White Sox reportedly signed free agent pitcher Mat Latos to a one year contract on Tuesday. According to Dan Hayes of CSN, the deal is for $3 million.
The signing gives the Sox some much needed depth in the starting pitching department, something that was brought up as recently as today in a piece on Fangraphs that advocated for the signing of Yovani Gallardo.
The signing is a classic White Sox “low risk, high reward” type of move. Latos is coming off two injury plagued seasons in which he pitched a total of 218.2 innings. Previous to that, he had a string of four seasons where he averaged 200 innings per season.
The White Sox are well known for keeping players, especially pitchers, healthy. No doubt they are hoping to Herm Schneider and company to work their collective magic on Latos.
The other numbers for Latos throughout his career are pretty solid. He has a career 3.51 ERA with a 3.44 FIP to go along with a 1.183 WHIP. His career K/9 rate is 8.1 and his K/BB ratio is a very good 3.04. Latos also has kept the ball in the ballpark for most of his career, allowing just 0.8 home runs per nine innings, and that is with two and a half years in Cincinnati. Along those same lines, Latos has a career ground ball rate of 43.4%, with a fly ball rate of 37.5 percent.
With a signing like this it is always tough to project what you will get out of a guy coming off several different injuries, but this is a guy that averaged 4.0 fWAR per year from 2010-2013. Even with barely over 100 IP each of the last two years, Latos was a 1.7 and 1.5 fWAR respectively.
This signing certainly comes with its share of unknowns. No one knows if Latos will stay healthy, and even if he does if he will return to the form he showed a few year ago. There is also the issue of Latos’s reputation as being a less than stellar person and teammate. How will that factor into his role on the White Sox? But despite all those questions, the fact remains that this is such a low risk move by the Sox, it almost doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work out. If Latos is bad, a jerk, or gets hurt, then you just move on.
It’s also worth keeping in mind, that Latos is just 28-years old and will be pitching for another contract after this year. If he can show a return to form, he could be looking at a long term deal and a nice pay day. That should be incentive enough to keep Latos in line.
As for what the Sox rotation might look like now, l I think it is safe to say that a healthy Latos slides into the fourth spot in the depth chart behind the Sox top three lefties. John Danks slides back into the fifth spot for now. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Sox held an open competition between Latos, Danks, Erik Johnson, and Jacob Turner for the final two rotation spots, but given the experience and the money invested, it will likely be Latos and Danks to open the season. Now, instead of having to rely on Johnson or Turner to start the year, those two, along with Chris Beck and maybe even Carson Fulmer, serve as your options if someone gets hurt. That is a much better scenario than the Sox were in yesterday.
This comes as a welcome move for the Sox as we get closer and closer to spring training. Most people (myself included) believe that they still need to add another position player to really round out this off-season. But as much as people have talked about right field or shortstop, back end rotation depth has been an area that needed to be addressed as well. This move does that.
It’s possible that Mat Latos is 2016 talk for Felipe Paulino. It’s also possible that Latos becomes one of the most important “under the radar” signings of the off-season. Either way, for one year and $3 million, the reward certainly outweighs the risk.