The Dodgers have agreed to acquire starter Mat Latos and first baseman/outfielder Michael Morse from the Marlins, Gordon Wittenmeyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports on Twitter. Three pitching prospects are going to Miami in the deal, in which Los Angeles will take on all of the remaining salary owed to Latos and Morse, according to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald (via Twitter) and MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro (Twitter link). Notably, the Dodgers will also get the Marlins’ competitive balance selection in next year’s draft; currently, it’s the 35th overall selection, though that will likely change as teams sign qualifying offer-bound players next winter.
Los Angeles has long been said to be heavily pursuing starting pitching, and the addition of Latos gives the team a mid-rotation arm with some upside. The Dodgers will still pursue higher-end pitching, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports (via Twitter), with the club still looking to add either David Price or Cole Hamels.
While he’s battled injuries and struggled early in the season, Latos has increased his velocity and upped his results since returning from a DL stint. All told, the 27-year-old Latos owns a 4.48 ERA with 8.0 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9 over 88 1/3 innings on the year. But ERA estimators view him more as a mid-3.00 ERA contributor, and that has shown up in his last seven starts, over which he’s allowed 15 earned runs in 45 2/3 frames with a 43:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Latos is earning $9.4MM this year, his final season of arbitration eligibility before hitting the open market. Morse, meanwhile, signed a two-year, $16MM pact ($7MM this season, $8MM next, plus a $1MM signing bonus). That would appear to suggest that Los Angeles will take on around $14.3MM in total salary in the swap, though Nightengale tweets that the deal passes on about $13.5MM in obligations.
Morse seems an odd fit for a Dodgers club that is set at first with Adrian Gonzalez and loaded with outfield bats. (The club also does not have a need for the services of a DH, of course.) But taking on his salary surely offsets the prospect price that was required to bring on Latos, and Los Angeles surely also valued the draft choice it will receive. Miami received the fifth Round A selection in next year’s draft in this year’s competitive balance lottery; the precise pick slot will depend upon the results of next year’s qualifying offer free agents.
The 33-year-old Morse continues to produce up-and-down results. After a quality 2014 campaign with the Giants, he’s missed significant time for Miami and owns a .214/.277/.314 slash over 173 plate appearances. He could still hold appeal for other teams looking for a bat, assuming that Los Angeles sees no use for him in its current alignment.
For Miami, the deal follows the sale of Steve Cishek as the team looks to save some salary and re-organize its roster in the midst of a disappointing campaign. Latos was brought in from the Reds over the winter in exchange for a more controllable arm in Anthony DeSclafani, while Morse was the team’s biggest free agent acquisition. One other significant move in the offseason was the trade that delivered Martin Prado. He too could still be traded, but Frisaro tweets that clearing Morse’s salary makes that less likely. The club has also continued to sell off its competitive balance picks, sacrificing the ability to add draft talent (though it has obviously managed to shed salary obligations and/or add other pieces in the process).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.