Blue Jays: Is Mat Latos a worthwhile incentive candidate?


With Mark Shapiro now firmly at the helm of the Blue Jays, we can already start to see how the new leadership is shaping up. Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet looked at 4 candidates for an incentive based contract, something the organization may become more open to. While none of the names he mentioned have a particular draw based on name alone, one of them is quite striking; Mat Latos.

Latos’ 2015 campaign was less than stellar across three teams as he posted 4-10, 4.95 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, and a K9 of 7.74. While he hasn’t made the greatest recent impression, consider that between 2012 and 2013 Latos had 14 wins each season, an ERA no higher than 3.48 and a WHIP no higher than 1.21.

Injuries hampered his last two campaigns, Latos has serious big league stuff. In his Major League career he’s posted a K/9 of higher than 9 only once, his sophomore year with the Padres, but he possesses serious swing and miss potential. Also, he doesn’t turn 28 until December.

That brings us to a potential incentive contract. In an incentive-based contract, players are rewarded based on performance and pre-determined statistical benchmarks. In offering Latos an incentive deal the Blue Jays could sign his arm at a more digestible salary, then only pay more should Latos return to the success we’ve seen him have in the past. If he does not, the Jays won’t be out a heap of money.

This situation, if the Jays are able to find the right situation with the right player, is all upside. Latos is primed for a bounce back, as he’s young and has demonstrated the ability to return from an injury before. With more attractive names on the free agent market, Latos is a buy-low option. Plus, if Latos does enjoy a career-best season a la Marco Estrada and refuses a standard Qualifying Offer at the end of the 2016 or 2017, the Jays will not only have ridden cheap success, but will also be entitled to a nice compensation draft pick.

The main question now is, should the Jays risk dedicating the resources to do so? With a payroll rumored to be in the ballpark of $140 million, the Blue Jays do have some money to work with. If they can pay comfortably below 10 million on Latos for a year or two, the Jays won’t have blown their budget, and will still be able to spent effectively elsewhere. This could be especially relevant if the Jays miss out on other prominent second-tier free agents like Jeff Samardzija or Wei-Yin Chen.

Next: Blue Jays 2015-16 Off Season Tracker

Not only is the price there, but Latos did take strides in turning his performance around through his 2015 struggles. Between time with the Majors and Minors, he developed an off-speed splitter that looked quite nasty when he was on. Given a full off season to develop that further, it could be used as his go-to off-speed pitch in the future.

If he can get his speed and velocity back up to the 93 MPH range on his fastball, Latos could be more successful than he ever has been. Considering he was sitting right around 90-91 in 2015, some solid offseason development should allow Latos to spend more time in the win column in 2016. Latos should not be viewed as a failed cause, on the contrary, he should be viewed as a strong sleeper candidate, that under the right contract, could benefit the Jays in more ways than one.