Mat Latos Rumors

Reds Dangling Mat Latos In Trades

Coming off a dreadful losing streak, the Reds have dangled right-hander Mat Latos in trades, according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark (on Twitter).

The 26-year-old Latos would represent a huge impact on the starting pitching market. He’s posted a 3.31 ERA with 5.6 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 and a 32.5 percent ground-ball rate in 55 1/3 innings this season since being activated from the DL. While those strikeout and ground-ball rates are down, Latos has been among the NL’s best young starters over the past several seasons. He owns a a 3.27 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 850 2/3 innings dating back to 2010.

Latos is eligible for arbitration for the final time this offseason and would be a free agent following the 2-15 season, so he’s much more than a rental for interested parties. Of course, the Reds are looking for a huge return for their No. 2 starter, as Stark notes.


NL Notes: Reds, Heyward, Gonzalez, Rockies

MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark doesn't expect the Collective Bargaining Agreement to be reopened before its 2016 expiration to address issues with the qualifying offer system, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. "It’s very difficult to open up a CBA," said Clark. "Suffice it to say, if there are issues during the course of any agreement, we continue to have discussions that may not require the CBA be to opened up, making sure that whatever the concerns are, whatever the issues are, and if they can be discussed in some more formal fashion, so be it, but more often than not, come 2016 when we have an opportunity to sit down is when we’ll do so." Last night, Aaron Steen asked MLBTR readers about the qualifying offer and nearly 47% want to tweak the QO while 25% want to eliminate it entirely.

In National League news and notes on Oscar Sunday:  

  • With the ink barely dry on Homer Bailey's six-year, $105MM contract extension, the Reds will be in the same situation with starters Mat Latos, Mike Leake, and Johnny Cueto next year. Owner Bob Castellini told the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay the team wants to retain all three. "We’re going to try to sign all these guys," Castellini said. "Whether we can or not, I don’t know. I don’t have a crystal ball."
  • Castellini also told Fay he is not pleased with the media's coverage of the Reds' offseason because it has had an adverse affect on the team's revenues. "That season-ticket number is the most important number we can generate," said Castellini. "We knew we wanted to sign Homer. We knew we were going to make some other commitments. It’s not that we didn’t look. It gets written in such a way – 'Well, the Reds aren’t doing anything' – that really does affect people buying season tickets." Castellini provided Fay with details of the club's revenue generated through ticket sales, sponsorships, and the national TV contract adding neither he nor any of the other principal owners or investors have ever taken money out of the franchise.  
  • Last month, the Braves gave Jason Heyward a two-year, $13.3MM contract. In two years, the perfect storm of baseball's economics, Heyward's age, and actions taken by the Braves will set the 24-year-old up for a huge payday on a likely barren free agent market, according to Mike Petriello of ESPN.com in an Insider-only piece (subscription required).
  • With mixed reviews to date, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez made his Spring Training debut yesterday. Phillies GM Ruban Amaro Jr. was upbeat about what he saw, reports MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. "He probably threw better with his stuff as far as his velocity and breaking ball since he's been in camp," Amaro said. "I was encouraged that his stuff was better than it had been in his sides. And hopefully it will continue to progress in a positive way." Pitching coach Bob McClure added (as quoted by Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Inquirer), "I saw a very competitive (guy), and that is what I was really hoping for. And he might be one of those guys that’s not the best practice player, but you put him in a game and he competes." Reports surfaced last week Gonzalez could open the season in the minors.
  • Solid pitching will be key to any improvement the Rockies hope to make this season. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick focuses on young starters Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler while the Denver Post's Troy E. Renck examines the Rockies' adherence to pitch counts to protect their starting rotation and the corresponding reliance on their bullpen, which could be called upon to record 10 or 11 outs every game. 

NL Central Notes: Latos, Bailey, Samardzija, Pirates, Neshek

The Reds announced today that right-hander Mat Latos had minor surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee. He's scheduled to return to his regular throwing program in 10 days (Twitter links). MLB.com's Mark Sheldon writes that Latos injured the knee a couple of days ago when he slipped while playing long-toss. Latos also had surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow back in October, Sheldon adds. Though the club does not seem overly concerned, it remains uncertain whether or not Latos will be ready for Opening Day. Here's more from the NL Central…

  • Fellow Reds hurler Homer Bailey says that he is still in extension talks with the club, the Cincinnati Enquirer's C. Trent Rosecrans reports. Even with an arbitration hearing scheduled for February 20th, Bailey said that the sides "haven't really talked one-year that much, it's been primarily multi-year." It was recently reported that, though talks continued, Bailey and the Reds remain far apart.
  • For another extension candidate, Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs, the reported gap in negotiations may be generating some friction, as Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports. "The emotional attachment I have to this organization, a lot of times you just give the benefit of the doubt," said Samardzija. But, he added: "The more this process goes along, the more I realize it is a business and that only goes so far."
  • Samardzija painted a picture of a negotiation process in which both parties fully understood the others' position, but are seemingly unwilling to give in. "If there wasn't a gap, we would have signed," said Samardzija. "But both sides are justified. It's not like anyone is asking for some outlandish concept. I understand where they're coming from, and they understand where we're coming from. That's really all there is to say."
  • Meanwhile, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says that the team kept some of its off-season powder dry, MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reports"In the two previous off-seasons, we've spent every dollar available to us," said Epstein, "and this is the first winter where we ended up keeping some in reserve to be used on players [that are] hopefully prime-age, impact-type players down the road. It gives us a bit of a leg up as we look toward next winter or an in-season move that might make the present and the future better." Epstein went on to discuss how those funds could be put to use. "Rather than just spend the money to spend it," said Epstein," if we can book that and have it available to us to sign that international free agent who comes along in the summer or to acquire a player in a trade who carries significant salary but fits for the long term, or to just start out next off-season knowing we can be a little more aggressive on the guys we really want early because the money will be available to us, that made more sense than spending the money now just to spend it." 
  • The Pirates have heard some complaints about their failure to spend significant money this off-season, but the club seems unconcerned, reports MLB.com's Tom Singer. "Payroll does not equal playoff," quipped GM Neal Huntington. Having decided against making any big splashes, the Bucs will look to replicate last year's success by once more getting contributions from homegrown talent. "We are really excited by where we can get to with some of the younger players we'll see in this camp," said Huntington. "The challenge is knowing when they will be ready, because when they get here, they will have to help." Manager Clint Hurdle said that the organization "will always rely heavily on developing our own talent," placing Pittsburgh among half of the league in that respect. "You have to anticipate change and get ready for change," said Hurdle. "We have created a culture of opportunity and manning up."
  • Right-hander Pat Neshek had multiple offers this offseason but chose to sign with the Cardinals because of the chance it presented him to get to a World Series, he told MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch. Neshek said that he is open to pitching for Triple-A and waiting for a spot to open up: "If I have to go down to Memphis, that's fine. There would be no problems from me. From my past experiences, if you do well, you're going to get an opportunity. It might not be right away."

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.

 



Transaction Retrospection: The Mat Latos Trade

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. LatosLatos 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.


Reds Notes: Mat Latos, Scott Rolen

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…"

Reds, Latos Agree To Two-Year Deal

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).

11:21am: The Reds announced that they avoided arbitration with right-hander Mat Latos, agreeing to terms on a two-year deal for the 2013-14 seasons (Twitter link). Latos is a Bledsoe Brothers client.

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.

The Reds have one remaining arbitration eligible player, as MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker shows. Homer Bailey, Clayton Richard and Jordan Zimmermann are the only remaining unsigned players.


Arbitration Filing Numbers

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…


Arbitration Breakdown: Mat Latos

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.


Jocketty: Reds Talking Extensions

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.


Reds Interested In Long-Term Deals For Bailey, Latos

The Reds have spoken with Homer Bailey about a contract extension, and they plan to do the same with Mat Latos, according to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (on Twitter).

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.