Mat Latos Rumors
The Reds used only six starting pitchers last season -- an unheard of feat these days that serves as a testament to the quality and durability of their rotation. Todd Redmond was the only pitcher outside of the Reds' top five arms to make a start, and he made exactly one. Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake and Mat Latos combined to start the other 161 games. Each of those right-handers has been with the Reds organization since 2009 with the exception of Latos, who was acquired from the Padres in December 2011.
Latos never appeared on a Baseball America Top 100 list, but he wasted little time establishing himself as a front-line starter in San Diego. From 2010-11, he led the Padres staff by compiling 379 innings of 3.21 ERA ball with 8.9 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9.
Latos' name had scarcely appeared on the rumor mill prior to December 17, when Ken Rosenthal broke the news that he'd been traded to the Reds. Cincinnati wound up paying a hefty price for four years of Latos by dealing prospects Yonder Alonso (24 at the time), Yasmani Grandal (22) and Brad Boxberger (23) as well as starter Edinson Volquez to the Padres. Let's examine each player in the deal and see how this one looks today...
The Major League Side
- Mat Latos: Latos instantly became one of the Reds' top two starters alongside Johnny Cueto, and his first season didn't disappoint. Many questioned whether Latos, who is more of a fly-ball pitcher, could succeed in the confines of Great American Ball Park. Latos answered them by pitching to a 3.48 ERA in 209 1/3 innings. He whiffed 185 batters against just 64 walks and allowed homers at a league-average rate (1.07 HR/9). Latos was forced into action in Game 1 of the NLDS following an injury to Cueto and delivered four brilliant innings of relief, but he was unable to replicate that magic in his second appearance. So far this season, the former 11th round pick has a 1.83 ERA with 37 strikeouts and eight walks in 39 1/3 innings so far. He signed a two-year, $11.5MM contract in the offseason that bought out his first two years of arbitration. Assuming another successful two seasons, he'll likely earn well over $10MM in his final year of arbitration eligibility, although the Reds could pursue a long-term contract extension that would delay his free agency. Fangraphs pegs Latos' value to the Reds at 4.0 wins above replacement to this point.
- Yonder Alonso: Alonso was the No. 33 prospect in the game and the Reds' No. 3 prospect at the time of the deal, according to Baseball America. His first season with the Friars could be considered a disappointment by some due to his lack of power, but the former No. 7 overall pick was still an above-average bat (109 OPS+) thanks to a .278/.348/.393 batting line. He's already homered four times in 2013 after hitting just nine in 2012, so it seems that the alterations to Petco Park's dimensions and another year of experience have done the young slugger some good. Under team control through 2017, the Padres are counting on Alonso to be the first baseman for San Diego's next contending team. So much so, in fact, that they traded Anthony Rizzo less than a month after acquiring Alonso in the Latos deal.
- Yasmani Grandal: The No. 53 prospect in baseball and No. 4 in the Reds' system at the time of the deal (per BA), Grandal burst onto the scene as the Padres' everyday catcher last season. After raking to the tune of a .335/.443/.521 line in Triple-A, he hit .297/.394/.469 in 60 games for the Padres. That line would be impressive enough for any rookie, but it's particularly impressive for a catcher who spent half his time hitting at Petco Park. Of course, Grandal was slapped with a 50-game suspension this offseason due to an elevated testosterone level, so he has yet to join Alonso in the middle of the Pads' lineup.
- Edinson Volquez: Volquez's inclusion in the deal gave the Padres an experienced Major League arm to immediately fill Latos' void in their rotation. Volquez came with upside, as he was three years removed from a 3.9 WAR season. He didn't come close to that level, but he did provide 1.1 WAR by hurling 182 2/3 innings of 4.14 ERA ball with 8.6 K/9, 5.2 BB/9 and a 50.6 percent ground-ball rate. He's been worse in 2013, though he did turn in a good start today. The 29-year-old Volquez, who was once traded for Josh Hamilton, will be eligible for free agency following the 2013 season.
The Prospect Side
- Brad Boxberger: Only Boxberger can still be considered a "prospect" in this deal, and that's a bit of a stretch as he appeared in 24 games for the Padres last season. He still has rookie eligibility, however, and was ranked 15th among Padres' prospects by BA and 18th by MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. Boxberger had a strong 2.60 ERA and 10.7 K/9 for the Padres in 2012, but he walked 18 batters in 27 2/3 innings and also hit two. BA writes that Boxberger's fastball sits 91-93 mph and tops out at 95 with hard cutting action. He favors his changeup heavily over his slider, and BA notes the Reds would like to see him incorporate the third pitch more often. Mayo feels that Boxberger has the stuff to eventually succeed as the Padres' closer, provided he can improve his command issues -- a feat which he did achieve in Triple-A last season (3.9 BB/9).
Overall, this trade has the makings of a win-win deal. Volquez has provided little value, but he was also the least significant part of the trade for the Padres, given his lack of team control. San Diego GM Josh Byrnes secured three prospects that he can control through at least the 2017 season in exchange for an established arm that will be in Cincinnati through the 2015 campaign. Based on the early results, Alonso and Grandal look like they will be mainstays in a rebuilding Padres lineup, and Boxberger has the chance to become at least a serviceable middle reliever with upside for more.
Latos has already played a role in giving Cincinnati one of Major League Baseball's best rotations, and given his age, he may have more to offer as his prime years set in. Reds GM Walt Jocketty couldn't have been thrilled about the concept of parting with Alonso and Grandal, but the Reds already had Joey Votto at first base and felt confident that Devin Mesoraco could become their everyday catcher. That hasn't happened yet, but Mesoraco is still just 24 years of age and catchers often take longer to develop offensively. Unlike some of the other trades I've examined in this series, both the Reds and Padres have plenty to feel good about following this swap.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Reds enter the 2013 with high expectations after returning to the playoffs last season for only the second time since Barry Larkin's MVP season in 1995. While the Reds won't have the Astros to beat up on all season thanks to Houston's move to the American League, look for the squad to continue to rely on a talented pitching staff to hold off the Cardinals come September. Here's the latest news and stories making headlines out of the Queen City.
- Mat Latos and members of the Reds front office were seated in the room designated for arbitration hearings when the announcement came that the two parties had reached a deal on a new contract, says John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (via Twitter). Right-hander Latos signed a two-year deal worth $11.5MM.
- Reds GM Walt Jocketty released a statement on Tuesday that third baseman Scott Rolen will not be joining Cincinnati for Spring Training this season, according to the team (all Twitter links). Rolen said, "Right now I’m simply not ready to make a commitment. I would like to leave my options open, without closing any doors..."
11:35am: Latos' deal is worth $11.5MM over two years, according to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com (on Twitter). Latos will earn $4.25MM in 2013 and $7.25MM in 2014, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports (on Twitter).
The contract will buy out Latos' first two seasons of arbitration eligibility. He will be eligible for the third and final time following the 2014 season and still projects to hit free agency after the 2015 season.
Latos, 25, joined the Reds last offseason when they acquired him from San Diego for Yonder Alonso, Brad Boxberger, Yasmani Grandal and Edinson Volquez. He posted a 3.48 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 209 1/3 innings with Cincinnati this past season, setting himself up for a substantial raise. Latos filed for $4.7MM, while the Reds countered at $4.15MM. Earlier this winter MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected a one-year salary of $4.6MM for Latos, noting that few pitchers have matched his resume while first time arbitration eligible.
Many players will avoid arbitration today, and dozens of others exchanged figures with their teams in anticipation of hearings. Most cases won't go to arbitration hearings, but teams such as the Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays and Braves are known for their 'file and trial' policies. For players on those teams this marks the last chance at negotiations before a hearing.
MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker will keep you up to date on every one of the filing numbers from around the game, but here are the highlights -- players who filed for $4MM or more. Now for the details...
- Clayton Richard filed for $5.55MM while the Padres offered $4.905MM, according to CBSSports.com.
- Martin Prado filed for $7.05MM while the Braves countered with $6.65MM, Heyman reports (on Twitter).
- Sergio Romo filed for $4.5MM and the Giants countered at $2.675MM, Heyman reports (on Twitter).
- Max Scherzer filed at $7.4MM and the Tigers offered $6.05MM, Heyman reports (on Twitter).
- Jason Hammel filed at $8.25MM and the Orioles offered $5.7MM, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports (on Twitter). Jim Johnson filed at $7.1MM and the Orioles countered at $5.7MM.
- Homer Bailey filed at $5.8MM and the Reds filed at $4.75MM, Heyman tweets.
- Jordan Zimmermann filed at $5.8MM and the Nationals offered $4.6MM, Heyman tweets.
- Dexter Fowler filed at $5.15MM with the Rockies offering $4.25MM, Heyman tweets
- Shin-Soo Choo filed at $8MM and the Reds offered $6.75MM, Heyman tweets.
- Chase Headley filed for $10.3MM with the Padres countering at $7.075MM, Heyman tweets.
- Mat Latos asked for $4.7MM and the Reds offered $4.15MM, Heyman tweets.
- Jason Motte filed at $5.5MM and the Cardinals offered $4.5MM, Heyman tweets.
- David Murphy filed at $6.5MM and the Rangers offered $5.05MM, Heyman tweets.
Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors (read more about it here), but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.
Mat Latos enters his first year of arbitration eligibility with a chance to break the record for first time eligible starting pitchers on one-year deals. My model expects that he will get about $4.6MM and I think this is probably an accurate prediction. It’s true that both Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw earned more than this after reaching eligibility for the first time, but both did so by way of multiyear deals, and those are generally not used as comparisons in arbitration cases. Other than these two starters, the record first-year starting pitcher deal went to David Price, who matched Dontrelle Willis' $4.35MM mark last winter.
Latos, a Bledsoe Brothers client, had an excellent platform season last year with a 14-4 record and a 3.48 ERA in 209 1/3 innings. He also struck out 185 batters, good for a rate of 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings. While playing for San Diego before being traded to the Reds, Latos also put together an impressive track record with a 3.37 ERA in 429 2/3 innings and striking out 413 (8.7 K/9). While he went just 27-29, obviously under .500, wins matter more than losses in arbitration hearings and he is more likely to get credit for his 27 pre-platform wins and 14 platform season wins than debited for the losses earned with the Padres.
In an effort to find similar pitchers, I looked for pitchers who were close to Latos in as many categories as possible while loosening the restrictions enough that they fell short. I looked for hurlers with 11 wins, 180 innings, and an ERA of no worse than 3.90 in their platform season, and 20 wins, 320 innings, and ERAs under 4.00 before their platform season. Despite these lighter criteria, there were only six such starters and two of them were the aforementioned uncomparable Cy Young winners, Lincecum and Kershaw.
The remaining four are David Price in 2012 ($4.35MM), Jered Weaver in 2010 ($4.26MM), Chien-Ming Wang in 2008 ($4.00MM), and Scott Kazmir in 2008 ($3.79MM). Since Wang’s and Kazmir’s salaries are both five years old, it stands to reason that with inflation, they would fall in the same range as Weaver’s and Price’s salaries in the $4.3MM range. When compared with these four pitchers, Latos looks very similar and maybe a little better in most categories. I suspect that his case will center on these four players and that he will get a slight raise over the record right around the $4.6MM that I have projected him for.
The natural player to start with is the current first-time starting pitcher record holder, David Price. Price had a very similar ERA to Latos (3.49 vs. 3.48) but his 12-13 record was bested by Latos’ 14-4. However, Price had 224 1/3 innings, fifteen more than Latos, and he also struck out 33 more hitters. In their pre-platform seasons, the two pitchers also posted similar ERAs (3.31 for Price and 3.37 for Latos), but Price had a better record with fewer innings this time. Price had a 29-13 record with 351 innings, while Latos had a 27-29 record with 429 2/3 innings. Latos had more strikeouts cumulative (413 vs. 302) and on a per nine basis (8.7 vs. 7.7) than Price during their pre-platform years. The Bledsoe Brothers agency is likely going to try to argue for Latos to get a small raise over Price.
Jered Weaver’s case in 2010 is also very similar. His 3.75 ERA exceeded Latos’ 3.48 mark, but his 16-8 record will probably be viewed more favorably than Latos’ 14-4. They also pitched almost the exact same number of innings (211 for Weaver and 209 for Latos), while Latos had eleven more strikeouts. In his pre-platform years, however, Weaver’s 35-19 record exceeded Latos’ 27-29, but his 3.71 ERA was worse than Latos’ 3.37. They had similar pre-platform innings, 460 2/3 for Weaver and 429 2/3 for Latos. Weaver did strike out 41 more hitters, though. Like Price, Weaver will probably be used as a main comparable for Latos, and Latos will probably have a better case.
Chien-Ming Wang’s case is five years old but is similar in many ways. Although he had a 19-7 record in his platform season (better than Latos’ 14-4), his 3.70 ERA was worse than Latos’ 3.48. Wang also only had ten fewer innings than Latos but he is far from a strikeout pitcher, so Latos’ 185 are nearly double Wang’s 104. They had equal numbers of wins pre-platform (27) but Wang only lost 11 games. On the other hand, Wang had nearly 100 fewer innings and almost 300 fewer strikeouts. Wang is a unique pitcher and probably not a great comparable, but even if Weaver and Price are seen as better than Latos, Wang is probably a very reasonable floor at $4MM and Latos should get a raise with five years of salary inflation added on that.
Scott Kazmir is the other comparable player to Latos. He had only one less win in his platform season, only 2 2/3 fewer innings, and the same ERA. However, he did strike out 54 more hitters. Still, before his platform season Kazmir only won 22 games (while losing 20) and his 3.73 ERA in 364 innings falls behind Latos’ 3.37 in 429 2/3. Latos had a few more strikeouts but at a lower rate per nine innings. Kazmir’s $3.79MM is another obvious floor, though I think Wang’s case implies that $4MM was already the floor (unless Wang’s 19 wins matter a lot more than I expect).
Overall, Latos had more wins than two of these four players, a better ERA than two and a similar ERA to the other two, more strikeouts than two of these four in his platform year, and had more innings, a lower ERA, and more strikeouts than three of the four comparable pitchers before his platform year, while having more wins than just two of them. Together, this all implies he should just be a tiny bit ahead of them. Add in a little salary inflation, and Latos’ $4.6MM projection seems like a good estimate.
The Reds have had preliminary extension talks with some of their arbitration eligible players, Cincinnati general manager Walt Jocketty acknowledged. "Nothing has gotten really serious yet,” the GM said, according to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. However, the Reds are interested in locking up Mat Latos and Homer Bailey to multiyear contracts.
"We've discussed that," Jocketty said. "We're taking a look to see if it works. If not, we'll go year to year. We'd prefer something long term eventually."
Mike Leake, Logan Ondrusek, Alfredo Simon, Shin-Soo Choo and Chris Heisey of the Reds are also arbitration eligible this offseason, as MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker shows. John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported last month that the Reds had had some extension talks with Bailey and intended to discuss a deal with Latos.
Bailey, a Hendricks Sports client, projects to earn $5.1MM in 2013 as a second time eligible player, according to MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. Meanwhile, Latos projects to earn $4.6MM as a first time eligible player. Bledsoe Brothers represents Latos.
The 26-year-old Bailey enjoyed a breakout season for the NL Central Division champions in 2012, posting career bests in innings (208), ERA (3.68), strikeouts (168) and WHIP (1.24). His 44.9 percent ground-ball rate was also a full-season best, as was his 9.4 percent swinging-strike rate. The Hendricks Sports is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $5.1MM in his second go-around in arbitration.
Latos, who will turn 25 on Sunday, pitched to a 3.48 ERA in a career-high 209 1/3 innings with a strong 8.0 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. His regular season marks were virtually identical to his strong 2011 season despite moving from the spacious Petco Park to the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark. A client of the Bledsoe Brothers, he's projected by Swartz to earn $4.6MM as a first-time arbitration-eligible player.
The Reds could look to do the same with Latos as they did with Johnny Cueto back in 2011, signing him to a four-year extension with a club option for a fifth year. At the time, Cueto was also eligible for arbitration for the first time. Latos has had more success to date than Cueto had, however, so it would likely require a greater financial commitment than the $27MM that Cueto secured.
With B.J. Upton now a Brave and Denard Span now a National, the Reds' outfield/leadoff hitter options are thinning out, writes MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. The Reds tried to acquire Span from the Twins at last year's trade deadline, though Sheldon hadn't heard anything about the Reds continuing their pursuit for Span this winter. Sheldon believes Michael Bourn and Angel Pagan are too expensive for the Reds and Shane Victorino may be as well, though Cincinnati is one of at least seven teams who have shown interest in Victorino's services.
Here are some more items about of the Queen City...
- In a separate piece from Sheldon, the Reds' recent history of locking up young players before free agency makes Mat Latos and Homer Bailey seem like extension candidates this winter. In his recent look at Cincinnati's arb-eligible players, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes noted that Bailey's injury history may keep the Reds from pursuing a multiyear deal with the righty, while Latos could receive a five-year, $60MM extension, though predicting a new Latos deal is difficult due to a lack of comparables.
- Dustin Bledsoe, Latos' agent, tells John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that the Reds have yet to approach his client about an extension.
- Also from Fay, he hears from agent Dan Horwits that the Reds have "been in contact" with his client Ryan Ludwick about a possible return to Cincinnati. "There’s interest on both sides. Hopefully, we can [get] something done. We’re talking to other clubs. He has offers from other clubs,” Horwits said.
Clayton Kershaw's salary jumped from $500K to $7.5MM this year, and it wasn't just because of his Cy Young performance. Kershaw qualified for arbitration for the first time in his career over the winter, so he obtained the right to establish his salary by comparing his production to that of his peers.
Though $7MM raises are reserved for elite performers like Kershaw, many first-time eligible starting pitchers will see their salaries rise from $500K or so to $2-4.5MM this coming offseason. A player’s case depends in large part on his career numbers, but his most recent season, or platform year, matters a great deal.
Advanced statistics like xFIP, wins above replacement and swinging strike rate don't generally figure in to arbitration cases. Instead, traditional stats such as innings, starts, wins and ERA determine players' salaries.
With one third of the season now complete, let’s check in on the prominent starting pitchers on track to be first-time arbitration eligible this coming offseason:
Injuries have limited Jhoulys Chacin, Doug Fister, Marco Estrada, Chris Narveson and Neftali Feliz. All of these pitchers are on the disabled list, none of them are on pace to complete 150 innings, and three of them -- Estrada, Fister and Chacin -- remain winless.
Phil Humber and Tommy Hunter have stayed healthy, but they’re off to disappointing starts that include losing records and ERAs above 5.50. The homer-prone Hunter is pitching at Triple-A, and could soon be recalled. The collective bargaining recognizes special accomplishments, and Humber's perfect game definitely qualifies, so his representatives at Moye Sports Associates could play it up should the sides go to a hearing. Yet there's no clear conversion rate in place to help value Humber's perfecto.
Brian Matusz and Ross Detwiler both spent considerable time in the minor leagues last year, but they've responded with solid seasons to date. Both will head to arbitration with losing records, however, and Matusz's career ERA sits at 5.32.
Bud Norris, Ian Kennedy, Tommy Hanson, Mat Latos and, to a lesser extent, Mike Leake all entered the season with the bulk innings totals that often lead to generous salaries in arbitration. All five pitchers continue piling up innings, though Leake, Latos and Norris have ERAs above 4.50. The pitchers in this group figure to be compared against one another over and over this coming winter.
Former top prospects Jeff Samardzija and James McDonald (pictured) are enjoying breakout seasons. Both right-handers have career-best walk rates and are averaging one strikeout per inning. If they can keep this up -- or at least come reasonably close to doing so -- their paychecks will reflect the improvements in 2013 and beyond. Unfortunately for Samardzija, starters Rick Porcello and David Price didn't seem to be able to use their generous pre-arbitration salaries to boost their arbitration earnings this past offseason, so his current $2.64MM salary probably won't help much.
It's early enough for the fortunes of these pitchers to change dramatically. Feliz could return to the bullpen, Fister could replicate last year's second half success, or Samardzija could regress. But, ten-plus starts into the season, these pitchers' platform seasons have started taking shape.
Photo courtesy of US Presswire. Stats via Baseball-Reference.com. Note that Derek Holland and Jonathon Niese signed extensions covering what would have been their first arb years. Madison Bumgarner, Stephen Strasburg and Daniel Hudson are expected to fall just shy of super two eligibility, though that's not official.
When the offseason started, we figured it would be headlined by a pair of MVP caliber bats (Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder) and a Japanese import (Yu Darvish). While those three certainly garnered their fair share of attention, the winter was mostly dominated by trades involving young, high-upside pitchers with multiple years of team control remaining.
The Doug Fister trade seemed to get it all started. The Mariners sent him and David Pauley to the Tigers for Francisco Martinez, Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, and Chance Ruffin at the trade deadline. Four similar young, high-upside starters with multiple years of contractual control remaining were traded this offseason. Here are those deals, presented chronologically...
- Athletics trade Trevor Cahill (and Craig Breslow) to the Diamondbacks for Jarrod Parker, Collin Cowgill, and Ryan Cook.
- Padres trade Mat Latos to the Reds for Edinson Volquez, Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso, and Brad Boxberger.
- Athletics trade Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals for Brad Peacock, A.J. Cole, Tom Milone, and Derek Norris.
- Mariners trade Michael Pineda (and Jose Campos) to the Yankees for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi.
Each trade involved multiple young players going the other way, including at least one top 100 prospect according to Baseball America. Which team got the best return for their young hurler?