On Tuesday afternoon the Chicago White Sox agreed to terms with free agent pitcher Mat Latos on a one year contract worth $3 million dollars. Latos completed his physical on Monday afternoon in Chicago.
Latos split time between the Miami Marlins, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Los Angeles Angels in 2015 compiling a record of 4-10 with a 4.95 ERA over 22 starts. A down year for Latos in 2015, who has a career record of 64-55 with a 3.51 ERA over seven seasons at the major league level.
So what can White Sox fans make of the signing? Well for one, its an excellent deal for the White Sox. Latos is a solid depth addition at the minimum, and has the potential to be a number three starter or better in most rotations when healthy. In his first three seasons in San Diego Latos has a 27-29 record with a very respectable 3.37 ERA. He also had 413 strike outs over those three seasons, giving him an 8.7 K/9 ratio. San Diego had losing seasons in each of those three years.
In 2012 Latos joined a much better Cincinnati Reds ball club, and enjoyed better success. Over three seasons in Cincinnati Latos posted a record of 33-16 with an ERA of 3.31 over 522 innings pitched. Latos struck out 446 batters over that span amassing a K/9 ratio of 7.7, as well as a strike out to walk ratio of 3.01.
Latos seemed to be ascending into to upper echelon of the leagues starting pitchers after back to back 14 win seasons in 2012, and 2013 with Cincinnati, and another one previously in 2010 with a bad San Diego team giving him three of four seasons with 14 wins. Then in 2014 with a 5-5 record, and an ERA of 3.25 through 16 starts Latos’ season ended prematurely due to injury. Latos required knee surgery, and would miss the remainder of the 2014 season, and not be retained by the Reds during the following offseason.
In 2015 he signed with the Miami Marlins, and was eventually traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers where he was released in September. On September 28th Latos was signed by his third team of the 2015 campaign, the Los Angeles Angels. He struggled in each of his three stops in 2015 coming back from knee surgery, and as a result did not garner much attention in the offseason.
So ultimately the White Sox were able to add depth to the back end of the rotation, at a low cost with a potentially high reward if Latos can return to the form he had prior to the knee surgery in 2014. The move does two things immediately to the White Sox penciled in pitching staff as it sits. The first is obviously unless he performs incredibly poorly in spring training, he will replace Erik Johnson at the end of the rotation. In addition he gives the White Sox the increased ability to replace John Danks in the rotation if he has another poor start to the season. Latos could move up to the number four spot, and Johnson could replace Danks at the end. That would also give the White Sox another right handed arm if it played out like that.
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While there has been rumors about Latos being a poor presence in the club house in the past, I’m not extremely worried about that being an issue. The Sox have have guys in the club house that will be able to make sure that Latos assumes his role, and at the same time Latos is on a one year audition for the rest of his career at this point so I can’t imagine him acting out in the club house and risking his future in Major League Baseball.
The Latos signing is not the addition of another hitter like many fans wanted, but it is definitely a nice addition at the end of the rotation, and at the low cost and short term investment that the White Sox picked him up for you really can’t be disappointed about it.