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Mat Latos Rumors
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:
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?
Some young starting pitchers appeal to the Royals as possible trade candidates, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). The Royals had interest in Mat Latos before the Padres sent him to Cincinnati and they still like Gio Gonzalez, the highly-coveted A’s left-hander.
However, the Royals don't want to part with outfield prospect Wil Myers or left-hander Mike Montgomery in any deal, Rosenthal reports. The Royals like the potential that young starters like Montgomery provide and believe Myers has the potential to hit in the middle of the order in the Major Leagues.
Royals GM Dayton Moore traded for Jonathan Sanchez and re-signed Bruce Chen earlier this offseason. The two southpaws join right-handers Luke Hochevar and Felipe Paulino in the team's projected 2012 rotation. Danny Duffy, Aaron Crow and Everett Teaford are also candidates to start for manager Ned Yost.
The latest out of the AL East:
- Peter Gammons of MLB Network tweets that the Blue Jays "went to the end" on Mat Latos, though the Reds ultimately won out. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports also hears Toronto was a finalist on Latos, though he doesn't know the details of their offer (Twitter links). The Jays are one team that could have comfortably matched the quantity and quality of the prospects Cincinnati sent to San Diego.
- While the Rays would ideally like to add another reliever with high-leverage experience, GM Andrew Friedman tells Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times he's comfortable with the bullpen arms he has now.
- The Red Sox probably aren't done making moves, though they don't seem inclined to make a big splash such as a Gio Gonzalez trade, writes Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald.
Earlier today, the Reds pulled the trigger on a major deal as they shipped Yonder Alonso, Edinson Volquez, Yasmani Grandal, and Brad Boxberger to the Padres for right-hander Mat Latos. Here's a look at some reactions to the trade from around baseball and a look at how it will impact both clubs..
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports likes the deal for both sides and argues that it takes a quality package of talent to land a 24-year-old potential No. 1 starter. When looking at all of the pitchers available on the trade market, including Gio Gonzalez, Matt Garza, Wade Davis, and Jair Jurrjens, Latos possesses the most upside.
- If the Reds make the playoffs in 2012 and/or in '13, in a weak division, and Latos helps, this trade will have served its purpose for the club, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com.
- One source told Dan Hayes of the North County Times (via Twitter) that the club had "a ton" of concern about Mat Latos' maturity issues. Latos turned 24 years old last week.
- The first rival evaluator Olney (via Twitter) spoke with loved the trade for the Padres. That same evaluator raised concerns about how Latos grows mentally as a pitcher and thinks that his fastball command is the big question mark for him (Twitter link).
- The Rockies were briefly in the mix for Volquez this week before he was traded to San Diego, tweets Troy Renck of The Denver Post.
- Even though it's fair to say that Alonso and Grandal were blocked by Joey Votto and Devin Mesoraco, respectively, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter) still feels that the Reds gave up a lot to land Latos.
- After watching Latos pitch in 2010, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (via Twitter) could not have imagined the Padres dealing the talented pitcher. However, Latos' 2011 wasn't quite as impressive.
- More from Olney (via Twitter) who thinks the Reds would have been better off dealing Votto for a huge haul of prospects and plugging Alonso in at first base. However, the Reds want to try to keep Votto and view him as their own Albert Pujols (Twitter link). Rival executives don't see how they'll be able to hang on to Votto while keeping their payroll under control.
- The Padres view Boxberger as someone who can eventually be a potential closer, tweets Scott Miller of CBSSports.com. Baseball America ranked the 23-year-old as the 10th best prospect in the Reds' farm system.
Some highlights from Josh Byrnes' conference call this afternoon..
- Padres GM Josh Byrnes said four teams had the right package of young players to make a run at Mat Latos, tweets Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. Ultimately, he said, the Padres winnowed it to two teams before deciding on the Reds.
- Byrnes said that the Padres view Yonder Alonso as a first base candidate and not as a left fielder, Crasnick tweets. Right now, it appears that Alonso and Jesus Guzman will duke it out for the job in Spring Training (Twitter link).
- For the time being, it seems that the Padres' current plan is to slot Alonso in at first and have Rizzo go back to Triple-A, tweets Crasnick. Byrnes admits that the deal will probably be a tough pill to swallow for Anthony Rizzo, tweets Scott Miller of CBSSports.com.
- The Padres GM says that he won't rule out another trade, but he is comfortable with his team's surplus of offensive players, Crasnick writes (via Twitter).
- Newcomer Yasmani Grandal will be given more time in the minors, tweets Crasnick. Byrnes referred to Nick Hundley as the club's "No. 1 guy" and a key part of the team.